Friday, May 23, 2014

Horse dies in freak accident at Churchill Downs

The new sound system at Churchill Downs is being blamed by the trainer of a racehorse that died on Thursday after suffering a freak accident.

The 5-year-old named Never Tell Lynda was walking toward the paddock area on the track when she reared, twisted and fell, hitting her head and dying. The incident came before the first race of the day at the Louisville, Ky. track.

The horse's trainer, Kenneth Wirth, believes Never Tell Lynda was startled by the sound of a starting gate bell coming from a commercial on the historic track's gigantic new video board.

"We teach horses to break from that," he said. "And you've got it on a loud speaker that everybody in a two-city block can hear. Well, what's she going to do? She thinks she's supposed to take off. And that's what she did. And when she did, she lunged and she lost her balance and went down.

It was quickly evident that this horse was in the process of expiring," he said. "To ease her suffering, one of our veterinarians euthanized her."

A representative for Churchill Downs called the tragic accident "extremely rare" and issued the following statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with her connections," said track spokesman Darren Rogers. "We're currently gathering facts and talking with people about what might have led to Never Tell Lynda's accident. ... The health and safety of our human and equine athletes remains our highest priority."

The high-definition video board, which has become a bragging point for the home of the Kentucky Derby, boasts 750 speakers, is larger than three basketball courts, and costs $12 million to construct.

Thursday's death is just the latest of a string of bad publicity for Chruchill Downs. The track has drawn criticism over taking a bigger cut of the money bettors place on its races, including demanding nearly $15,000 back from NFL wide receiver Wes Welker after the track alleged an error in payout on the Kentucky Derby. Furthermore, California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn lashed out at the track for a lack of hospitality during his last visit.


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