Mage won the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on Saturday to capture the first leg of U.S. thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.
Seven deaths are being investigated by the Louisville racetrack, which said it is working with regulators after imposing an indefinite suspension on Saffie Joseph Jr., the trainer of two of the dead horses, Parents Pride and Chasing Artie.
Two other horses died as a result of racing or training, including Derby entrant Wild On Ice and three-year-old filly Take Charge Briana, while Code of Kings was euthanized for injuries sustained after flipping several times in the paddock.
Two more horses, Chloe’s Dream and Freezing Point, had to be euthanized on Saturday after sustaining injuries in races leading up to the Kentucky Derby.
Animal rights group PETA said on Saturday that, given the number of deaths, they had urged Churchill Downs to close the track in order to implement stronger safety protocols.
“Although PETA appreciates that the Kentucky state veterinarian exercised caution by scratching the Derby favorite, we called for the closure of the track so stronger protocols could be put in place, said Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo in a statement.
“Churchill Downs should have listened.”
(This story has been refiled to fix a typo in the headline)