In 2008, a horse named Eight Belles collapsed with two broken ankles just after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby. She was euthanized directly on the track. After her death, the thoroughbred industry organized safety and drug testing committees to make the sport safer.
But industry practices continue to put both horses and riders in harm's way. On average, 24 horses a week die at racetracks in the United States. Many horses that break down run with injuries masked by injected painkillers.
Overtaking Bodemeister (at 6-1 odds) in a deep stretch, I'll Have Another, at 15-1 odds, pulled off an upset in the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Dullahan finished third.
I'll Have Another is owned by J. Paul Reddam and was trained by Doug O'Neill.
It was jockey Mario Gutierrez's first Derby race, according to the Associated Press. It was also trainer O'Neill's first Derby victory, having never finished better than 13th place with two previous horses.
When the gates fly open at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, all eyes will be on the 20 racehorses that launch themselves into the 138th Kentucky Derby. That's a lot of horses, and a special challenge for the men charged with getting them into the starting gate safely.
Caleb Hayes, 24, has been part of the 12-man start crew for the past six years. The 9-to-5 life isn't for him, he says — he loves his job and likes working the gate side by side with the older guys.
The surface on which Kentucky Derby horses will race Saturday is a special piece of real estate, built for high performance and safety. The track is generically described as dirt, but is actually a careful mixture of river sand, silt and clay.