Racehorse killed in final race at Churchill Downs on Derby Day

D. Wayne Lukas. Image by Jamie Squire / GettyImages.
D. Wayne Lukas. Image by Jamie Squire / GettyImages.

If jockey Jon Court hadn’t broken his hand, I wonder if the death of Thoroughbred racehorse — Canadian Winner — would have been reported at all. We the public probably would never have heard about it otherwise, as with so many breakdowns and deaths in American horse racing. In this case we do know because jockeys were hurt (not that they are given much more consideration that the horses they ride).

The Daily Racing Form reports:

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jon Court suffered a broken hand while fellow jockey Jose Ortiz emerged body-sore but otherwise uninjured in a two-horse spill in the 13th and last race of the Kentucky Derby program Saturday at Churchill Downs.

The incident occurred nearing the half-mile pole on the main track, where Canadian Winner, ridden by Court, broke down badly. Appealing Alex was trailing him and could not avoid him, throwing Ortiz.

Canadian Winner, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, had to be euthanized. Appealing Alex, trained by Nick Zito, was vanned off the track. The extent of his injuries was not immediately known.

Racehorse Memorial Wall Worldwide reports that Canadian Winner broke down, unseated rider, did not finish, fractured left front ankle.

In the comments to the post, John Jp states:

A Wayne Lukas horse broke down!? Well knock me over with a feather.

Oddly, the comment got two thumbs down. I don’t know why. Just because Lukas is old, let’s not get overly sentimental and forget the many horses who have passed through his hands who have not come to a good end, according to folks who have been in the game for decades and witnessed it. And not just Thoroughbreds, but Quarter Horses too.

Yet, Lukas has been inducted into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame. In 2014 Lukas was given the 2013 Eclipse Award of Merit. Sigh.

Jockeys put their lives as risk every time they ride a race. They know that; we know that. But it is particularly hazardous in the US where their mounts are at such an unpalatable high risk of breaking down.

I wonder how Canadian Winner’s breakdown looked on Churchill Downs’ new mega viewing screen — said to be the the size of three basketball courts and viewable virtually from every vantage point at the historic racecourse. And how many were still in attendance to see this tragedy unfold.

We wish Court and Ortiz a speedy recovery. Run in Peace, Canadian Winner.

See also Kentucky Derby Day: Jockeys Injured, Horses Okay in Race 3 Spill; Louisville Courier-Journal


Racehorse Memorial Wall Worldwide

We note with great sadness that @EquusEditorial, the Racehorse Memorial Wall’s presence on Twitter, is coming to an end. If you are on Twitter, please take the time to thank this gallant lady who runs this vital service on behalf of fallen racehorses.

12 thoughts on “Racehorse killed in final race at Churchill Downs on Derby Day”

  1. “Jockeys put their lives as risk every time they ride a race. They know that; we know that. But it is particularly hazardous in the US where their mounts are at such an unpalatable high risk of breaking down.”

    Individuals who have little regard for human life and safety will almost never be concerned over animal welfare. It makes me question whether or not the industry does anything to ensure the safety of the jockeys either. Sickening…


  2. Sue Carter, That’s the kind of comments I have always seen in UK newspapers when I tried to let the public know about the dangers of vet drugs in the horse meat found in frozen dinners all over Europe last year. They don’t want to know that’s what wrong with the public today, they run from the truth.


  3. When you look at the Racehorse Memorial Wall you feel like you are looking at a war memorial for soldiers that died in a war nobody wanted.


  4. I posted about 150 posts on the Kentucky Derby FB page on Derby Day. I posted stats from Horse Racing Wrongs and the Jockey Club showing over 3,500 horse deaths in 2009-2013. Only one person cared enough to question. Everyone else who did comment said it was a lie or that I was ruining their day. One even said he killed his old nag and ate it. Most were probably too drunk to read.


    1. I am not surprised at their reaction. People just want to have fun, and could care less about the casualties. It is a brutal sport. I wonder if they were there to witness the the third and last race to see just how dangerous it is.


  5. Racing is cruel from the start. They breed for nothing but speed. They don’t care if the horse lasts, is healthy for more than a couple of years, as long as it makes them money in less than 3 years.They throw “normal” foals away to use their mothers as nurse mares so the TB mare can continue to make money for these greedy monsters. Then they start running the horses at far too young of an age. They’re still growing and developing. And when they break down, they’re thrown away like a piece of trash. It’s shameful and disgusting!!


  6. You can watch for yourself on the video included with this story the kind of breakdowns that occur daily at tracks all over the country because these horses are being run as babies. To this old horseman, that is the cruelest and most inhumane element of Thoroughbred racing. A horse shouldn’t even be ridden until it’s at least three, and the average retirement age of racers today is four.  There won’t be any movies about today’s horses like those done about Secretariat and Sea Biscuit because they’re run and done too fast.

    Allen Warren Horse Harbor Foundation

    http://www.horseharbor.org (360) 692-2851  The true mission of any animal welfare organization should be to eliminate the need for itself.


  7. Great Sadness and tears always to hear that this has happened , been following Racehorse Memorial wall since its inception , I believe 2005, way toooooo many horses have met this fate !!!!!! many Thanks to the Lady who runs this ,…….or how would we ever even know !!!!!


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