Vets Report Safe Kentucky Oaks and Derby

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission reported successful Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands programs from an equine safety standpoint.

Foster Northrop, DVM, a KHRC member who served as an "on call" veterinarian May 4-5 at Churchill Downs, said "every race got the all-clear," and that things went smoothly from a racing standpoint.

"When the first track record was set Friday, I held my breath, because we know speed kills," Northrop said. "But I commend track superintendent Butch Lehr (for the racing surfaces)."

"It was very uneventful, so we were thrilled," said Dr. Bryce Peckham, the state veterinarian for the KHRC.

The only setback was a weather delay on Oaks day that sent horses back to their barns before the American Turf Stakes and forced evacuation of the infield. The delay last 52 minutes.

"Everyone was just wonderful in dealing with it," Churchill president Kevin Flanery said. "We were waiting for the locusts to swarm, but they never did come."

The previous Saturday night Churchill was hit by a hail storm.

Peckham also reported that the Keeneland spring meet held in April had only one racehorse fatality. There were nine vet scratches during the meet, and six horses showed indications of post-race lameness, according to KHRC statistics.

Commissioner Ned Bonnie asked if all the Derby horses were under 24-hour surveillance in light of the fact horses at Churchill historically are housed in various barns, not one stakes barn. Northrop, Flanery, and KHRC director of enforcement Chris Clark told Bonnie all Derby participants were watched around the clock.

Clark said the Jefferson County Sherriff's Office provided barn security and "reported no problems at all." And though Northrop said he had to sign in whenever he visited a barn, Bonnie persisted, saying he wants to see the actual logs kept by the county agency.

KHRC chairman Robert Beck Jr. said the agency would work to make the security reports available to commissioners in the future.

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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