Disaster at the Derby

The Bangalore Turf Club has borne witness to the deaths of three beautiful horses on the racetrack in the last two weeks. This is entirely due to a lack of regulation of the sport and the club committee’s callous disregard for the welfare of horses.

Two horses, “Gumption” and “White Gold”, collapsed and died on the tracks on Saturday 29th Dec. Both were known ‘bleeders’ (EIPH) and died of acute pulmonary hemorrhage. The Club committee, on advice from the Chief Veterinarian, stopped the decades old practice of showing known bleeders to a veterinarian, after exercise, in order to get a fitness certificate. The practice was to ban a horse from running if it bled, the duration of the ban depending on the severity of the case. Upon completion of this duration, the horse is once again assessed and only if it is found to be fully healed would it be allowed to race again. No member on the Club committee is qualified to take a decision to stop this practice. Decisions like this are to be taken by the Indian Equine Commission only.

The Chief Veterinarian was previously involved in a case where he had prescribed wrongful medication for a horse suffering from corneal ulcers. He did not attend any of the three fatalities on the track, despite being closest to the horse that collapsed and died in front of the stand. The committee had made no attempt to procure details from the attending veterinarian either.

The most tragic case is that of “Magnificent Mary” who broke both her front legs in an appalling accident two weeks ago. She slipped on a wet patch on the track; the result of a broken irrigation system. Previous proposals have been submitted to the Club committee to either rectify the existing system or purchase a new one; no action was taken.The jockey involved suffered severe brain injuries and is currently admitted in the hospital still in a semi-coma and paralyzed on one side.

Initially the trainer was blamed for the accident, citing that the horse had broken down due to a prior tendon injury. However, the tendon was checked and found not to be injured. The fact is the horse stumbled on a bad patch of the track and skidded on its knees for about 10 meters due to the wet ground. Both front lower limbs were bent forward and broken.

Racing people are quick to say ‘it was just an accident’. However, all these three fatalities and the terrible brain injuries suffered by the jockey were no accident. They were the result of ignorance and a callous attitude by the Committee towards the safety of horses and jockeys.