"Once in while we'll have a horse fall in the paddock, we'll scratch the horse, and the trainer and owners are disappointed
because the horse looks fine walking back to his barn. We'll get a call later thanking us for scratching the horse because
they've actually fractured their ribs or withers. There are many things to take into consideration, and experience helps our
immediate response. Horses can be unpredictable, and that's one of the reasons why there needs to be a vet present everywhere
the horses are."
Gearing up for the bell
Kunz observes the racers in the paddock as they are walked and saddled and then follows them out to the racetrack. There is
a veterinarian at the starting gate, finish and in a chase vehicle, manned by Kunz, or one of her staff, Drs. Jennifer Durenberger,
Anthony Verderosa, Barbara Greene or Jamie Motler. They observe the horses in the post parade to ensure they warm up properly
and as they load into the starting gate. The veterinarian at the "wire" watches for each horse to gallop out after the race
and canter back sound. A veterinarian is driven in the chase car to monitor and respond to any incident or injury that occurs
during the race.
Kunz will be assisted by an EMS group with human ambulance in case of jockey injury. Kunz is driven to the starting gate to
observe the horses as they approach and enter the gate, and as the race begins, the chase car follows behind the horses to
the finish line to monitor the horses for soundness after the race.
But her day doesn't slow at he finish line; she observes the horses as they canter back to the finish line after the race.
She observes them as they are unsaddled and walked back to the barns.
As a precaution at the ready, there are three Kimzey Horse Ambulances stationed around the racetrack. They are equipped with
medical equipment, including compression boots and splints, pharmaceuticals, oxygen, alcohol and ice water, and "ArcticHorse"
blankets. These blankets, created from material originally designed for human burn victims, are placed on horses to avoid
heat exhaustion. The ambulances are hydraulic, powered electrically, and can maneuver over any surface. There is no rear axle,
so the floor can be lowered to facilitate the loading of an injured horse. There are skylights that make the interior brighter
and less threatening to the horse, and a movable partition restricts the horse while the ambulance is in motion. The NYRA
owns five horse ambulances, which are distributed among its three racetracks, Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga.
For Belmont Stakes day, one from Aqueduct was borrowed to make three available.
"It is very, very rare, that we need two ambulances in a single race, but the precaution is taken just in case," she says.
Luckily, the Belmont Stakes ended without incident, though it likely had little to do with luck and much to do with the care
and expertise exhibited by Kunz and her veterinary staff. Lost in the Fog, the nation's leading sprinter, won his seventh-consecutive
race in the $200,000 Riva Ridge, a Grade II for 3-year olds at seven furlongs.
Afleet Alex romped by seven lengths to win the $1-million Belmont Stakes to the joy and enthusiasm of 62,274 cheering fans.
He passed the entire field at the quarter pole, running the final quarter mile in a record 24.5, not done since 1969 by Arts
and Letters. Was it the patience of his jockey, Jeremy Rose, the 411/42 miles he jogged and galloped the Monday before, the
heart of a champion racehorse or a lift from Alexandra Scott, the little girl that seemed to have buoyed horse, jockey and
trainer? Maybe all of the above, but for Dr. Kunz and her staff, it was just another day at the races.
Dr. Kane earned his doctorate in equine nutrition and physiology from the University of Kentucky in 1978. He works within
the animal-feed industry with a specialty in horses.