A ninth racehorse died on Saturday at Churchill Downs. Its death marks the ninth equine fatality at the race track, the home of the Kentucky Derby, since late April. The horse that died, Swanson Lake, was a 3-year-old filly. It was injured during the races and died after the sixth race at the track. She placed fourth in the race.
Dr. Will Farmer, the equine medical director at Churchill Downs, said that Swanson Lake sustained “a significant injury to the left hind leg” and the filly was euthanized after the injury was deemed inoperable.
Swanson Lake had lifetime earnings of $9,200 and was trained by Mike McCarthy. America’s best racing, describing his career, wrote:
Michael McCarthy took out his trainer’s license in 2006 and picked up several graded stakes victories while filling in for Todd Pletcher in 2007, including the Grade 1 Las Virgenes Stakes with Rags to Riches. He served as a longtime assistant to Eclipse Award winner Pletcher before going out on his own for good in 2014.
He won the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes with No Problem in 2014 and scored another Grade 1 with Illuminant in 2016 when she won the Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
He trained several standouts in 2018 in multiple graded stakes winners City of Light and Axelrod as well as Grade 2 winners Liam the Charmer and Paved and graded stakes winner The Lieutenant. Later that year, McCarthy landed his first Breeders’ Cup victory when City of Light turned on the afterburners in the stretch and streaked clear to a tour de force in the 2018 Dirt Mile.
In City of Light’s final start in January 2019, he gave McCarthy a major moment when he delivered a dominant, runaway victory over 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes.
McCarthy earned his first career Triple Crown race win in the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes with Rombauer on May 15, 2021. Rombauer had previously won the El Camino Real Derby, then skipped the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve to prepare for the Preakness. That fall, McCarthy picked up his second winner at the Breeders’ Cup when Ce Ce upset heavily favored Gamine in the Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar.
Alarm bells were raised when a number of horses died in the runup to the Kentucky Derby, with the event releasing a statement saying:
Transparency is an important component of our commitment to safety and accountability in horse racing. We share the concern of our fans who have questions about the recent equine fatalities at Churchill Downs Racetrack and we extend our sincere condolences to those who love and cared for these horses.
Since Opening Night of Kentucky Derby Week, two horses trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. have died suddenly of cause yet to be identified: Parents Pride on Saturday and Chasing Artie on Tuesday. Two other horses sustained musculoskeletal injuries from which they could not recover: Wild on Ice last Thursday while training on dirt and Take Charge Briana during a turf race on Tuesday. Wild on Ice was transported to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital for care, but both were ultimately euthanized for humane reasons.
While a series of events like this is highly unusual, it is completely unacceptable. We take this very seriously and acknowledge that these troubling incidents are alarming and must be addressed. We feel a tremendous responsibility to our fans, the participants in our sport and the entire industry to be a leader in safety and continue to make significant investments to eliminate risk to our athletes. We have full confidence in our racing surfaces and have been assured by our riders and horsemen that they do as well.
Each horse was transported to the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostics Lab for complete necropsies. We continue to press for answers and are working with regulators to conduct swift and thorough investigations. The safety and well-being of horses is a critical issue for which everyone in the industry shares responsibility; however, we will continue to take every measure to ensure that we are providing the safest possible environment for horses on our property.
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