The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Thunder Snow, the horse who refused to run the Kentucky Derby, is doing fine

It turns out Thunder Snow just might not like mud. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

A curious thing happened when the gates opened to start the 143rd edition of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday — only 19 of the 20 horses decided to run. The straggler, an Irish-bred colt named Thunder Snow, seemed to mistake the race for a rodeo as he pranced and tried to buck his jockey off his back.

While at first spectators feared Thunder Snow might have suffered an injury, veterinarians later confirmed otherwise. The UAE Derby winner simply appeared, despite his name, to want nothing to do with the muddy track.

According to the Lexington Herald Leader, the colt misstepped out of the gate, which caused it to buckle under jockey Christophe Soumillon. Realizing recovery was impossible, an outrider came to help Soumillion calm Thunder Snow, who was able to jog along the rail and “comfortably” back to the paddock, the Derby’s on-call vet, Dr. Keith Latson, told reporters. He was examined there by Dr. Jennifer Kaak, who found no injuries to his legs, and “was left to walk back to the barn under his own power and did so comfortably,” Latson said.

So far, though, there is no reason why, as Latson put it, “he didn’t break well.”

Always Dreaming pulls away on a soggy track to win 143rd Kentucky Derby

Thunder Snow is trained by Godolphin Racing, which is owned by Sheikh Mohammed of the Maktoum family, the ruling family of Dubai. The horse was bidding to become the first to win the Derby after exclusively racing in Europe and the UAE. Sheikh Mohammed’s horses are 0 for 10 when it comes to winning the Kentucky Derby.

Hundreds of racehorses die at the track each year. Their deaths may be preventable.

The news that Thunder Snow had escaped injury came as a huge relief to Derby viewers and animal lovers, although some those who bet on the horse at 16-1 odds were left disappointed.

Those who bet on Always Dreaming were not. He won the race by more than two lengths with the help of jockey John Velazquez.