Breeders' Cup Horse Dies

Juddmonte Farms' Spanish Fern died of internal bleeding resulting from a fractured pelvis the evening of the Breeders' Cup day of championship Thoroughbred races at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. The 5-year-old mare pulled herself up shortly after the start of the race, noticeably favoring her left hind leg. She was removed by ambulance, examined and treated for early signs of shock, and transported to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky.

Scott Hopper, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, examined Spanish Fern there and found she had a fracture of the left side of her pelvis and internal bleeding. She was given IV fluids, blood volume replacement, corticosteroids, and treatment for shock. Though veterinarians were able to stabilize her, she began hemorrhaging again in the evening and died from internal bleeding about 9:30 p.m.

Larry Bramlage, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, said, "Fractures of the pelvis are occasionally seen in the horse as the result of trauma of muscular exertion during exercise. Fractures of the pelvis are seen in horses while racing, training, or turned out in a field. The pelvis serves as the anchorage for all of the major musculature of the hind limb. As we all watched the gate open for the Filly & Mare Turf race, we could see Spanish Fern accelerate and then immediately become lame on the left hind limb. She created the fracture with the force of her own musculature acceleration. The immediate swelling indicated that she lacerated one of the large blood vessels, which lie within the pelvis, when the fracture occurred. The first aid and care of this filly stabilized the situation. Unfortunately, she began to hemorrhage again late Saturday evening, a few hours after being admitted to the intensive care facility at Rood and Riddle.

"Fatal hemorrhage is a rare, but well-documented sequel of pelvis fracture in the horse. This is one of the situations where absolute bed rest is the prescription for stabilizing the hemorrhage and allowing the vessels to clot. Unfortunately this is not possible in the horse, and they become victims of their innate desire to remain mobile and unrestrained in times of stress. In this instance, that instinct re-initiated the hemorrhaging and proved fatal to Spanish Fern."

About the Author

The Blood-Horse Staff

The Blood-Horse is the leading weekly publication devoted to international Thoroughbred racing and breeding. Since 1916, the staff of The Blood-Horse has served the Thoroughbred community with the highest standards of journalistic excellence to provide comprehensive and timely editorial coverage and analysis.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More