By Mike Owens
(KSDK) - The extreme efforts to save Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro would most likely not happen for a horse similarly injured at Fairmount Park in Collinsville, Illinois.
Fairmount is not in the top tier of racing. The horses are not worth a fraction of Barbaro. Experts who follow horse racing said economics mean injured horses at Fairmount don't get the expensive surgeries.
Cindy Medina, one of the winningest female jockeys to ever ride, is retired now. But she said she's seen owners euthanize horses that could have been saved.
Medina runs a program that rescues worn out thoroughbreds, and retrains them to be riding horses for regular folks. She said she understands the economics of racing, adding that she's been able to save some injured horses, and give them new life at her riding ring.
The State of Illinois regulates horse racing at Fairmount, but the state veterinarian at the track declined on camera interviews, and would not be quoted. John Gattuso is the state veterinarian. His name is all over the horse race post mortem reports that contain a lot of the information in this story.
The information indicates that in 2005, when there were 102 race dates, 15 horses died as a result of racing, three of them died while running or finishing a race, including a horse, Go Gretta Go, owned by owner of the track. Up until mid-June, after 47 racing dates, there were seven racing related deaths.
Attempts to talk to owners and trainers about the deaths were futile. We tried over and over to get them to discuss mortality rates, but none were willing to go on camera and talk about race-related deaths.
Dr. David Wilson, a veterinarian at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is a surgeon, specializing in horses.
He admits it's not acceptable for horses to die after or during a race, but adds it's part of the business of racing. Racing horses, just like other athletes, suffer heart attacks. He cites the case of otherwise healthy football players collapsing during training, and dying. Such a case happened last summer in Columbia.
The experts gauge horse mortality in deaths per 1000 starts. An analysis at Fairmount indicates the death rate is less than two per thousand, well below the level of concern.
Retired jockey Cindy Medina runs that program to help retired thoroughbreds.
For more information, click the links to the right of this story.