Saturday’s Kentucky Derby was one for the ages as Mage edged out Two Phil’s and Angel of Empire to win the 149th running of the race.

However, in recent days, Churchill Downs was the face of controversy that’s constantly surrounded the sport.

Seven horses died at the track in the week leading up to the race, including potential Derby runner Wild on Ice and two other horses in the undercard for Saturday’s Derby.

PETA sounded off on the racetrack and the sport Saturday.

“Churchill Downs is a killing field. … They should play ‘Taps’ at the Derby instead of ‘My Old Kentucky Home,’” PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

Churchill Downs Incorporated suspended trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. indefinitely after two of his horses died in recent days at the track.

On top of that, five thoroughbreds were scratched from the big race, including the morning-line favorite Forte, just hours before the race. It was the first time since 1936 five horses were scratched from the Kentucky Derby.

“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. Churchill Downs should have listened,” PETA said.

View of Churchill Downs

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“This is part of racing, and it’s the cruel part,” Mike Repole, co-owner of Forte, said in an interview with FanDuel TV.

This is not new for the sport in North America. 

Medina Spirit crossed the finish line first at the 2021 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified after failing a post-race drug test. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown winner, was banned from Churchill Downs for two years because of it, but that wasn’t the end of Medina Spirit’s controversy. The horse died that December. 

More than 30 horses died in 2019 at the Santa Anita racetrack in California.

A general view before the 2023 Kentucky Derby

 

The second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, is scheduled for May 20 in Baltimore.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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