A look at Kentucky Derby winners that have developed laminitis

December 26, 2011

On Dec. 13, 2011, Strike the Gold was the latest Kentucky Derby winner reported to have developed laminitis. His battle with the hoof disease was mentioned in his obit after he was put down in Turkey due to an injury. He joins an unfortunate club of elite thoroughbreds to suffer from laminitis or founder. Here are their stories:

Secretariat: In October 1989, Secretariat was put down after he developed complications from laminitis. He was 19. The beautiful chestnut colt ran the first sub-2 minute Kentucky Derby on his way to sweeping the Triple Crown in 1973. His career earnings totaled more than $1.3 million. His owners declined to talk about his laminitis, including the cause, but the horse always seemed to carry more weight than the usual thoroughbred and may have had the insulin form of the disease.

Affirmed: In January 2001, Affirmed was euthanized due to laminitis. He was 26. He had injured his left front pastern the previous October, causing him to stand too much on his right front foot, resulting in laminitis. Affirmed remains the last winner of the Triple Crown, in 1978, and his legendary rivalry with Alydar made it an exciting year. He was ridden by young jockey Steve Cauthen. Affirmed earned $2,393,818 in his career.

Sunday Silence: In August 2002, Sunday Silence lost his battle with laminitis after suffering a fatal heart attack. He was 16. He had been ill since May with an infection in his right leg that brought on laminitis in his left foot. His owners had been discussing whether to euthanize him when he got down in his stall, could not get back up and eventually died of heart failure. The nearly black stallion won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Breeders’ Cup Classic over arch rival Easy Goer, and his career earnings totaled $4,968,554.

Barbaro recovers after shattering three bones in his right hind leg.

Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro recovers in 2006 at New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania after shattering three bones in his right hind leg in the Preakness. (Photo by the University of Pennsylvania)

Barbaro: On Jan. 29, 2007, the big bay Kentucky Derby winner was put down at the University of Pennsylvania after a fight against laminitis watched around the world. He was 4. The colt won the Derby by 6 1/2 lengths in a romp in May 2006 but shattered three bones in his right hind leg in the Preakness, leading many to wonder if he’d survive the initial injury. Dr. Dean Richardson was able to rebuild the right leg only to see the left hind foot develop laminitis in July 2006. Barbaro’s early recovery from laminitis looked promising. However, after he developed an abscess in his right hind foot and laminitis in both front feet, owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson, along with Richardson, made the decision to euthanize him. Barbaro earned $2,302,200 in his career.

Strike the Gold: On Dec. 13, 2011, Strike the Gold was put down at Karacabey Stud Farm in Turkey after suffering a fractured left front pastern in his paddock. He had battled laminitis throughout the year but was considered in relatively good health. According to a Turkey racing official, the stallion had a heart attack in his paddock and fell, leading to the fracture. Veterinarians were able to wake the horse but chose to put him down due to the injury. Strike the Gold was the 1991 Kentucky Derby champion and the oldest living Derby winner at 23. He had been a stallion in Turkey since 1999. He won six of 31 career starts for earnings of nearly $3.5 million and was Nick Zito’s first Derby winner.

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