In the wake of Saturday's Preakness Stakes, a sense of tragedy and sadness looms over Churchill Downs and other race tracks across the nation due to the recent spate of horse deaths.
At least nine horses have died at the iconic Louisville track since April 27, including Swanson Lake, a three-year-old filly, who suffered a significant injury to her left hind leg and was euthanized.
The nine horses who have tragically died at Churchill Downs in less than a month include Wild on Ice, who would have competed in the 149th Kentucky Derby if it were not for such a tragedy.
The recent string of horse deaths and the death of Havnameltdown, a horse trained by Bob Baffert, due to a non-operable left fore fetlock injury during a Preakness Stakes undercard in Baltimore have led many to point the finger at the renowned racehorse trainer.
"Churchill Downs is a killing field," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement on May 6. "They should play 'Taps' at the Derby instead of 'My Old Kentucky Home.'"
Guillermo has called out the racing industry for allowing trainers like Baffert to stay in the business despite previous scandals and horse deaths, calling him "the bad guy."
"Pimlico should have followed Churchill Downs’ example and barred Bob Baffert from the track," Guillermo said. "Baffert has been implicated in drugging scandals and the deaths of seven horses who collapsed in California, and at least 75 horses in his care have died. The tragic death of Havnameltdown is the latest in a long line of fatalities. The racing industry must kick out the bad guys or it will have blood on its hands as well as blood on its tracks."
Despite his involvement in the death of Havnameltdown, Baffert was able to through tragedy and claim victory in the Preakness Stakes, which marked his 17th Triple Crown win and eighth at the Preakness.
"We had a horrible race and we've just been really totally wiped out after that horse got hurt," Baffert said after the race. "It's been a very emotional day."
The racing industry needs to take a long, hard look at itself as more horses die on their tracks, and the lack of change and action despite tragedies like this one is a major concern for all horse lovers.