Vets Investigate 'Unusual' Injuries at Fair Grounds

Although five horses have been euthanized as a result of catastrophic injuries at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots since Jan. 17, Tom David, DVM, equine medical director for the Louisiana State Racing Commission, said the incidents appear to have no direct connection with the condition of the racing surface.

"We can't find any correlation with the track at all; the track appeared to be as good as it has ever been when the horses broke down," David said Jan. 22. "The breakdowns were not from the usual things. Only one of them was anywhere close to a normal catastrophic breakdown."

David said two of the five horses were euthanized due to injured shoulders while galloping. Three of the injured horses were from Tom Amoss' barn; one suffered a fractured tibia in a hind limb. "Then it put its weight on the diagonal front leg and fractured a radius, which is real unusual," David said.

Amoss' other horse sustained a distal condylar fracture in one of its rear limbs. "You see (this type of injury) occasionally, but mostly in the front leg," David said. "Hopefully, this is just a group that by happenstance (had fatal injuries) that occurred around the same time."

Bernard Flint and Mark Thompson trained the other horses that had to be euthanized.

David said Fair Grounds' new track superintendent, Brian Jabelmann, who was hired Dec. 31, seemed to be doing a "terrific" job. "We just can't find anything (wrong with the track)," he said. "The riders are happy, the trainers seem to be happy, and if you talk to the practicing veterinarians, nobody is seeing any rash of injuries for the trainers they work for."

Jockey Ramsey Zimmerman, who broke his collarbone after a spill involving one of Amoss' horses, Squallacious, Jan. 17, is the only reported rider to have been seriously injured. Zimmerman, who underwent surgery Jan. 21, is expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks.

David cited research done by veterinarian Sue Stover, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, at the University of California, Davis, which he said showed most catastrophic breakdowns are caused by undiagnosed preexisting injuries. "They're usually just injuries that you cannot diagnose, like the shoulder and tibia," David said. (Read more about research into catastrophic injuries).

However, David said, "After looking at horses for 40 years, these catastrophic injuries are just hard to predict. These are basically what we'd think of as being sound horses, not horses with noted problems. I looked at the vet records on three of them, and there's just absolutely nothing there that would lead you to believe that here's a horse that had any problems."

As of Jan. 22, David said no additional information was available on the injuries, or if they could be related to the consistency of the track.

"Right now, we're monitoring (the track) and watching it, trying to observe and keep on top of it," he said.

(Originally published at BloodHorse.com.)

About the Author

Esther Marr

Esther Marr is a staff writer for The Blood-Horse magazine.

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