A racehorse died Thursday at Churchill Downs after a freak fall that the trainer blamed on the sound of a starting gate bell blaring on the track’s new sound system.
The 5-year-old mare Never Tell Lynda was walking toward the paddock on the dirt track when she reared, twisted and fell, hitting her head, said her trainer, Kenneth Wirth. She died before the first race of the day at the track that’s home to the Kentucky Derby.
A heartbroken Wirth later said the horse was spooked by what Wirth thinks was the sound of a starting gate bell coming from a commercial on Churchill’s massive new video board. The system includes 750 speakers.
“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.”
The fall was not witnessed by any of the track veterinarians, but staff rushed to her aid, said Will Farmer, chief racing veterinarian for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.