Eighth Horse Dies in Past 3 Weeks at Churchill Downs, Home of Kentucky Derby

Another horse was euthanized at Churchill Downs in the wake of the Kentucky Derby


Eight horses have now died at Churchill Downs over the past three weeks, with the most recent death after a race on Sunday.

Rio Moon, a 3-year-old horse, was euthanized after the sixth race on Sunday. According to the notes in the Equibase chart, Rio Moon “suffered a catastrophic injury to his left foreleg a few strides after the wire,” as the Associated Press reports.

The loss of Rio Moon comes in the wake of the death of seven horses at Churchill Downs, in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby and the aftermath. Wild on Ice and Take Charge Briana were both euthanized after suffering “musculoskeletal injuries from which they could not recover.”

Parents Pride and Chasing Artie died suddenly on May 2. The two horses’ trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. was later suspended indefinitely.

Code of Kings died on April 29 before a race after flipping and breaking his neck.

Chloe’s Dream and Freezing Point, were injured on the day of the Kentucky Derby and subsequently euthanized. During Race 2, Chloe’s Dream sustained a right knee fracture at the top of the first turn, and during Race 8, Freezing Point sustained a biaxial sesamoid fracture.

After the deaths of the horses, the racetrack and home of the Kentucky Derby issued a statement and maintained that it will “fully and actively work with the Kentucky Horseracing Commission (KHRC) and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) to thoroughly investigate each incident to determine, to the degree possible, any underlying health or environmental causes and apply those learnings to continue to improve the safety of this sport.”

“While each incident reported has been unique, it is important to note that there has been no discernable pattern detected in the injuries sustained,” Churchill Downs said in its May 6 statement. “Our track surfaces are closely monitored by industry experts to ensure their integrity. Each horse that participates in racing at Churchill Downs must undergo multiple, comprehensive veterinarian exams and observations to ensure their fitness to race.”

After the seventh horse died at Churchill Downs, Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, called the deaths “unacceptable” in a statement to PEOPLE, adding that the “deaths of so many young horses surrounding the Kentucky Derby this year underscores the urgent need for reform to protect the lives of horses, including the immediate and full implementation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act which has been held hostage by some horsemen obstructing the anti-doping provisions.”

According to World Animal Protection, an animal welfare nonprofit, the deaths result from the racing industry prioritizing “profit over animals.”

“The deaths of Parents Pride, Chasing Artie, Wild on Ice, Code of Kings, Chloe’s Dream, Freezing Point, and Take Charge Briana prove it’s time to address the ethical implications of this so-called ‘sport,’” World Animal Protection executive director Lindsay Oliver said in a statement to PEOPLE. “How many more horses have to die before action is taken?”