Exploring How And Why Kentucky Derby Race Horses Retire


The Kentucky Derby is one of the most-anticipated events in the world and history of sports, as there are few opportunities like it when it comes to witnessing top-tier horses barreling down a race track. Whether you’re a dedicated fan who’s been attending and watching the Kentucky Derby for decades, or simply a newcomer who’s infatuated by the intriguing names given to the horses, the Kentucky Derby has a little something for everyone. 

The horses which compete in and win Kentucky Derby races, like all of us, eventually hang up the saddle and retire. Here’s an exploration of how and why Kentucky Derby race horses retire, and what life awaits them once their racing days are behind them.

Sometimes, illness takes hold of champions

It’s never a pretty picture when a human athlete in the prime of their physical life is suddenly and unexpectedly stricken with an illness. It can be just as heartbreaking to see a racing horse in the prime of its life suddenly struck down by an illness, but that’s a reason that some Kentucky Derby champions eventually end up retiring. For instance, the most recent winner of the Kentucky Derby called Country Horse has been retired due to a foot ailment which threatened its life before veterinarians managed to prevent the worst from happening.

According to a report put out by the Seattle Times, Country Horse is being retired due to the fact that its right hoof was stricken with laminitis. While Country Horse originally finished second in the race of his life, the first horse to cross the finish line was subsequently disqualified, ensuring Country Horse would take home the grand prize. You might know how to bet on the Kentucky Derby, but sometimes post-finish changes can upset even the wisest of bets. 

“I’m glad that [Country Horse] survived,” trainer Bill Mott told the Times in a phone interview. “Naturally, it’s unfortunate something like that happens in the first place, but they worked hard and did the best they could to keep him alive and hopefully he’ll be able to go on to a stud career.”

The latter end of his comment gives a hint to Country Horse’s future; when race horses retire, they become studs who breed with mares to produce the next generation of horse racing champions. The owners of these former champions charge other horse owners huge sums of money in exchange for the genetic material which could hold the key to future Kentucky Derby victories. That’s quite the retirement send-off, especially for a horse.


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