ROCK SPRINGS — Three horses were euthanized and three jockeys suffered injuries after two separate racing accidents at Sweetwater Downs Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon, live horse racing competitions were taking place at the Sweetwater Downs, which is located at the Sweetwater County Events Complex. Eugene Joyce, Wyoming Horse Racing, LLC Managing Partner and Sweetwater Downs General Manager, said there were two races on Sunday where injuries occurred.
“I can’t tell you how gut wrenching yesterday was,” Joyce said. “It’s just devastating to go through something like this.”
The first injuries occurred right after the fourth race of the day. After the finish line, the horses were going into the turn when the No. 9 horse bolted to the outside and the jockey couldn’t control him. That horse hit the No. 10 horse forcing both them and the jockey into the rail.
“The No. 10 horse suffered a dislocated shoulder and unfortunately that horse had to be euthanized,” Joyce said.
Both jockeys of the No. 9 and No. 10 horses were injured. One had a bruised hip and the other sustained several broken toes in the accident. Both of the jockeys were transported to Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County where they were treated and released.
“What happens when an incident happens like that at the racetrack, it’s tough to assign blame to the jockeys. They are on 1,200 pound animals that have a mind of their own,” Joyce said. “Things like this do happen occasionally.”
More injuries during the very next race of the day. The No. 3 horse was halfway down the track and appeared to want to buck the rider off. The jockey bailed off of the horse as it ran around the outside turn and collapsed. During that same race, the No. 1 horse face planted at the finish line and the rider was thrown off of the horse. The rider was slammed to the ground hard suffering neck and back injuries. He was transported to MHSC where he was kept overnight for observation and then released.
As for the horses, both of them broke their backs and had to be euthanized.
“I’ve been in this sport 30 years and I think I may have seen a horse break its’ back once or twice in those 30 years,” Joyce said. “To have two do it in the same race is just the most bizarre thing.”~Eugene Joyce
Joyce explained why the horses had to be euthanized.
“The physiology of the horse is if a horse can’t stand on four feet, they can’t recover, they can’t recoup,” Joyce said. “It’s very difficult. It’s very painful, but that decision had to be made.”
He said things like this happen every now and then, but usually not all in the same day.
Reviewing What Happened
The Wyoming Gaming Commission has a board of gaming stewards at the race and they will review what happened. This review will include the Commission watching the races films, and speaking with jockeys, trainers, those in charge of track management, the veterinarian at the races, and the horses’ private veterinarian. They will also review track and weather conditions at the time of the race.
They will also work with representatives from the Jockeys Guide and the Horseman’s groups.
“They will gather all the data and based on that, we will meet with the stakeholders to talk about how we could possibly prevent this in the future,” Joyce said. “We take these things very seriously.”
“As gut wrenching as these things are for the fans in the stands, they are even more gut wrenching for the trainers and jockeys who spend the majority of their time with these animals,” he said. “A lot of them have been raised since they are foals and are part of the family.”
He said due to COVID-19 restrictions, about 95 percent of those in attendance were family members of the jockeys, trainers, and part of the racing scene. The other 5 percent were fans.
“When these things happen, it’s really devastating for everybody,” he said.
Joyce said they are committed to seeing if there is something they can do to improve things going forward.
“We are going to undergo a thorough review,” Joyce said.
After the Commission is finished with the review, they may make changes.