The Preakness got off to a tragic start on Saturday, with two horses dying in the first four races and a jockey hospitalized with a broken collarbone.
Homeboykris died after a come-from-behind victory in the first race at Baltimore’s Pimlico Course. After leaving the winner’s circle, the gelding suffered an apparent heart attack and collapsed. A planned necropsy will determine the official cause of death.
"The horse was in really good health for a 9-year-old horse. When we claimed him, I was really amazed at how good of health," trainer Francis Campitelli told the Baltimore Sun. "He had no infirmities in his legs. He was just in such good health, you know?"
Tragedy struck again soon after.
Pramedya, owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Lael Stables, broke her leg during the fourth race and fell to the muddy track. The four-year-old filly was euthanized on the track. Pramedya’s jockey, Daniel Centeno, broke his right collarbone in the fall and was taken to Sinai Hospital.
The death of Pramedya comes 10 years after Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, another Lael Stables horse, suffered life-ending injuries at the Preakness. Barbaro broke his right hind leg during the race and died after months of failed treatment.
Racehorse deaths are not an anomaly. The cardiovascular strain of the sprints and the susceptibility of horses' delicate legs result in many injuries. Twenty-four horses die each week at U.S. racetracks, according to a 2012 New York Times report.
Following Saturday's deaths, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals demanded the release of the horses’ medical records.
"Studies -- and our own investigations -- have shown that most breakdowns and deaths occur because horses have pre-existing injuries that are masked by the excessive use of legal medications. We want to know if that is what happened in the cases of Pramedya and Homeboykris," PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo said in a statement. "In today's racing drug culture, at least three horses are dying every day on U.S. tracks. The foolish use of muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and other medications must end now."
CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that Barbaro broke his right hind leg, not two legs.