Episode Summary

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of Derby Week in Louisville. It’s like the whole city’s been polished to it’s very best, everyone’s dressed up for company, and dozens of events are happening every day between Thunder and the race.

But two listeners were thinking this year about a more serious side of the Derby: horse safety, injuries, and even deaths. It's the subject of today's edition of Curious Derby.

Episode Notes

Every horse racing fan remembers Eight Belles’ death, said Michael Blowen, the owner of Old Friends, a retirement farm for thoroughbreds. It happened in 2008, minutes after the filly had placed in the Kentucky Derby; she collapsed on the track after both her ankles broke.

In television coverage from the race, cameras zoomed in on veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage.

“They immediately euthanized her because there was no possible way to save her," Bramlage said after the race.

“But I’ll tell you,” said Blowen, “Nobody loved Eight Belles more than her trainer, Larry Jones. I was on the backside of Churchill Downs every morning that week, and he had that horse out grazing every day. He adored her, and no one was more broken up about what happened to Eight Belles.”

And Blowen himself loves horses, especially racehorses.

Old Friends is an expansive farm outside Georgetown — the kind with wide pastures and volunteers who hand-feed carrots to retired racehorses. Every morning Blowen visits 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm, yelling across the field, “Who’s the greatest horse in the world?”

He acknowledges that the entire industry hasn’t always taken all the precautions it could have to keep the horses safe — though things are getting better.

Two of our listeners, Mike Tarsa and Addison Cramer, wanted to know how often horses are injured or killed during thoroughbred races. And what’s being done to prevent it?

They asked Curious Louisville. So we called in our data reporter, Alexandra Kanik, to see if she could track down some numbers.

About the Show

Ever had a question about the Derby City that you just can't answer? That's where Curious Louisville comes in. Listeners submit their questions, the public votes on which questions to investigate, and 89.3 WFPL finds the answers.