Regulatory veterinarians in Kentucky say there is no explanation for a spike in the number of equine fatalities during the recently concluded meet at Ellis Park in Henderson.
According to figures distributed by the veterinary staff during the Sept. 23 Kentucky Horse Racing Commission meeting, there were eight racing fatalities and one fatality during training hours at the 29-day meet that began in early July and went through Labor Day. During the same period in 2012, there were two fatalities at Ellis Park.
Dr. Mary Scollay, equine medical director for the state, and Dr. William Farmer, chief veterinarian, said all of the fatalities, except one, were due to physical breakdowns; one was cardiovascular-related.
Farmer said the medical staff has studied the necropsies and past histories of the horses involved in the fatalities, and there is no definite commonality with the incidents.
"It is usually multi-factorial, and we have nothing to say that there was a specific issue," Farmer said. "Normally, we have a different type of horse at Ellis Park. A lot of these horses are old campaigners."
"The drug-testing screens on these horses indicated no presence of prohibited drugs," Scollay said. "This is quite a puzzling event."
Scollay and Farmer said there was no indication of surface issues at Ellis Park that led to the fatalities, noting that more of the problems occurred in August rather than the first month of the meet.
Prior to the start of the Ellis Park meet, officials worked around the clock to rid the main dirt track of an inordinate amount of rock that was in the material used to replenish the surface. Farmer and chief state steward Barbara Borden said they inspected the track during the meet, and there were no rock problems.