Horse racing safety focus of Louisville Forum

POSTED ON  |  09-05-2019

Maximum Security Kentucky Derby
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Horse racing safety took center stage in Louisville on Wednesday, four days after the Kentucky Derby avoided a potentially catastrophic collision. In a wide-ranging discussion at the Louisville Forum, panelists weighed in on Derby field sizes, the spate of horse deaths in California, whips and medication, among other topics.

And, of course, Saturday’s historic disqualification of first-place finisher Maximum Security, who was stripped of a win after stewards ruled he drifted wide turning into the home stretch. “Absolutely the horse had to come down,” said panelist Donna Barton Brothers, a former jockey who is now an analyst for NBC Sports. The three officials’ determination was a “no-brainer,” she said.

Barton Brothers said Maximum Security’s jockey Luis Saez told her on the track after the race that his horse got spooked at a part of the racecourse where riders and horses hit a “wall of noise.” She agreed with another panelist that the horse may have drifted farther if Saez hadn’t used his riding crop, or whip, to corral him. She also said she’s never heard jockeys complain about the Derby’s above-average 20-horse fields and predicted Churchill Downs won’t limit the number of horses in the future. But, she said, the track may want to consider adding a single starting gate for all horses, rather than the two joined gates it now uses.  

Video replays appeared to show Maximum Security moving into the path of War of Will, who avoided stepping on the horse in front of him. War of Will owner Gary Barber called it a “major infraction that almost led to a catastrophe.” Indeed, safety concerns have dogged horse racing this year. Santa Anita Park briefly cancelled racing in March after more than 20 horses died at the track, a rash of fatal injuries that renewed calls for medication and other changes.

Barton Brothers, in remarks at the forum, said those deaths came amid massive rain in southern California, extreme temperature changes and the departure of a longtime track employee. Adding dirt to the track gave it a cushion and alleviated “a great deal” of the concerns, she said.

© 2015 IGSRV All rights reserved.