Turfway to Rebuild Stable Gate in Aftermath of Horse Escape onto Highway

Turfway Park | Coady


Turfway Park in Florence, Kentucky, will be installing a new stable gate entryway after the current season ends in March to try and avoid a repeat of the havoc caused on the night of Feb. 1 when a loose Thoroughbred escaped from the backstretch and ran onto nearby Interstate 71/75 before being captured without serious harm.

Barbara Borden, the chief state steward presiding at Turfway, detailed the incident during Tuesday's Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) meeting.

“The horse got loose in the barn area, unfortunately ran through the stable gate, and actually ran over a person who was trying to catch him as he was leaving the barn area,” Borden said. “And he wound up on [the interstate] going north. So he was thankfully caught, without much ado or injury to himself or any humans, about six, seven miles up the road.”

Videos posted on social media by motorists, plus police body camera footage, showed the horse-whose identity was not revealed in news reports or by the KHRC-running up the interstate in the dark.

WCPO-TV out of nearby Cincinnati, Ohio, had reported drivers “dutifully turned on their hazard lights and slowed down” and that police from the city of Erlanger “tried to help by boxing in the horse with their cruisers.”

State police shut down the highway around 10:15 p.m., according to published news reports.

“At one point, the horse ran full gallop southbound in the northbound lanes into the rear of [a] police cruiser, causing damage to his trunk,” stated a police incident report quoted by WCPO. The TV station further reported that the horse fell down after striking the car, “only to get back up and continue making a break for it.”

Police body camera footage with a time stamp of 10:22 p.m. showed the horse standing calmly while shanked in the hands of a caretaker who was trying to soothe him on the side of the interstate.

“We were talking to Florence police, and we alerted them that the horse was loose,” Borden said. “I called one of our outriders and said, 'Hook your trailer up and get out there,' and he did. He was the one who actually brought the horse back. We got very lucky that no person or horse was injured.”

One officer could be heard saying on the police footage, “This is nuts, man. That's a first. Definitely a first.”

Actually, it wasn't.

On Mar. 2, 2013, a first-time starter named Joseph the Catfish ducked out, unseated his rider, and leapt Turfway's outer rail. He ran down Houston Road through a retail district before being captured in an attempt to run south onto the same highway.

Chip Bach, Turfway's general manager, told commissioners at the Feb. 27 meeting that the track's stable gate had been damaged in an unrelated incident prior to the horse escape.

The rebuilt version, Bach said, will include a safety arm with flashing LED lights that can be lowered at the press of a button if a security staffer hears the “loose horse” siren going off on in the stable area.

“The  plan is to work on it as soon as we get past this meet,” Bach said.

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