Autopsy planned for horse that died at Ellis Park

Local News
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HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – A horse died Sunday, following a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Downs Preview Turf Sprint.

Sir Navigator collapsed on the walk back and died while being treated on the track, Ellis Park officials said in a press release Monday.

“He collapsed after unsaddling,” said chief state veterinarian Bruce Howard. “They got him up and he took a few steps and collapsed and died. We put ice blankets on him, started to treat him and before we could get much going with him, he was gone. The top three things you would think of would be heart attack, a bleeding incident internally or heat. He didn’t act typically of heat, but you can’t say before an autopsy is done.”

Sir Navigator was trained by Robertino Diodoro, who Ellis Park officials said is also the horse’s co-owner.

The horse will undergo an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

Ellis Park officials said the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the park take many precautions to make sure horses are in good physical condition, saying that all the horses running are inspected by a state-employed veterinarian the morning of the race.

The veterinarian is in the paddock before every race looking at the horses and watches them post-parade as they warm up. Any horse showing signs of an issue will be scratched.

Ellis Park officials said water and hoses are available where the horses unsaddle.

Racing was cancelled on July 19 and 20 at Ellis Park because of concerns over heat.

General Manager Jeff Hall released this statement:

“If Sir Navigator had shown any signs of a problem, he would not have run yesterday. The horse ran a very good race and what happened after the race came completely out of the blue. He was being walked back toward the barn area when he collapsed. Water was put on him, as is protocol in such a situation, by his handlers and the horse got back up. He was continuing his walk back when he collapsed again and died as he was being treated by our state veterinary staff.

It’s extremely unfortunate and our hearts go out to Sir Navigator’s team. No one cares more about these horses than the people who spend hours with them every day, attending to their every need. Horse deaths are extremely rare at Ellis Park, and we are proud of our reputation as one of the safest racing surfaces in the country. This was an isolated incident, but as we always do, we will look at and evaluate everything to see if there was something else that could have been done. On the surface however, it appears as though no one could have seen it coming.”

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(This story was originally published on August 5, 2019)

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