Ohio State Veterinarians at the Kentucky Derby

Called "the most exciting two minutes in sports," the Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Lexington, Kentucky.

Ohio State veterinarians Dr. Liz Santschi and Dr. John Hubbell were both invited by Dr. Mary Scollay, medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC), to assist the veterinary medical team for the 2013 Kentucky Derby. They have also participated in previous Derbies, as well as the Kentucky Oaks and the Breeder's Cup World Championships.

"I started working for the KHRC in 2009," said Dr. Santschi. "Dr. Scollay asked me to help her team evaluate the Derby and Oaks horses in the week preceding the races. This allows early detection of concerns so that owners, trainers and the KHRC can evaluate the risk of injury during competition."

Dr. Hubbell has participated in four Derbies. "My responsibilities are to provide support for the veterinarians attending the Horse Ambulance in case a horse becomes injured during racing," he said. "Fortunately, there were no horses this year that needed assistance. This is in large part due to the efforts of Dr. Santschi and the Kentucky veterinarians screening horses in the days leading up to the race."

"Tuesday thru Thursday of Derby week, I watch horses train in the early morning, and perform physical examinations on the participants later in the day," explained Dr. Santschi. "This allows the permanent KHRC employees time to focus on the horses coming in that day. Any concerns I identify are also checked during the week by other veterinarians."

Safety concerns are communicated to the trainer, who decides if the horse will race. "We much prefer that the people with connections to the horse make the decision to withdraw, but will scratch a horse if necessary," she said.

Ohio State Professor Emeritus Dr. Rick Sams was also on hand at the race. World-renowned for his work in the detection of prohibited substances in horses, he is currently laboratory director of HFL Sport Science, located in Lexington. According to their website, the lab specializes in horse drug testing and medication control, as well as the testing of sport supplements for banned substances.

Both Dr. Santschi and Dr. Hubbell look forward to participating in future events at Churchill Downs.

Dr. Rick Sams, Dr. Liz Santschi, and Dr. John Hubbell

From Left: Dr. Rick Sams, Dr. Liz Santschi, and Dr. John Hubbell