March 27, 2009
This year’s Piedmont Races at the Upperville Show Grounds ended in a way
no one could have expected.
It was no surprise that Quick Line led the field to the finish and crossed the line first: he won the Blue Ridge Races and came in second at Casanova earlier this season. But on Saturday the 13-year-old gelding suffered a ruptured aorta in the final second of the race and careened out of control as he crossed the finish line, trampling through a tailgate party.
Five spectators were injured; two were taken to Winchester Hospital, two were airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital, and one was treated at the scene. When the horse collapsed, jockey Noel Ryan was thrown through a fence.
Piedmont Equine Practice veterinarian Paul Diehl said that he knew the horse had suffered a heart attack as soon as it began to stagger. “He went down very quickly,” Diehl said. “I ran forty yards but he was already dead when I got there.”
Ryan and co-owner Julia Butcher were devastated by the horse’s death. They bought Quick Line in October and had recently taken him for a physical, which showed no health problems. But horses are vulnerable to sudden heart attacks just like people, according to Diehl. Ryan confirmed that last year he saw a horse drop dead playing polo.
Loudoun Fire and Rescue did not release the names of the victims, and as of this writing their condition is unknown.