May 7th, 2018

Kentucky Derby Flying in the Horses

Posted in Aviation News

The Kentucky Derby – Flying in the horses is no small feat.  How do those beautiful thoroughbreds get to the big race on the first Saturday of May each year?

For many of the horses the trip is somewhat easy.  They are often stabled at one of the beautiful horse farms around Lexington.  Stables such as Calumet and Claiborne Farms, as well as 150 others (https://www.visitlex.com/idea-guide/horse-farm-tours/).  Lexington is about an hour drive from Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY.

However some horses make the trip from across the country.  California Chrome was one of several Derby winners from California.  Other equines, such as Mendelssohn in 2018, came from Europe.  So how does a horse get across the country or across the pond?

The equine airplane is one option.

Yes there is such an airplane.  The most prominent of which is a Boeing 727-200 operated out of Kentucky by a company known as the H.E. Sutton Forwarding Company.  On the side of the aircraft is written the words, “First Class Equine Travel”.  The plane can carry nearly two dozen horses and rumor has it that tickets cost several thousand each.

Other horses are carried in the cargo bay of regular airliners or cargo planes.  The bays are temperature and pressure regulated to provide maximum comfort to the horses.  The horses are kept in portable stalls with plenty of hay and water.  Apparently Emirates SkyCargo is among the best carriers of horses.

Interestingly, when the horses are brought from overseas they are quarantined for a few days to ensure no “bugs” are brought from foreign soil.  There is an excellent piece on horse travel and photos that I encourage readers to check out:  https://thepointsguy.com/news/how-racehorses-are-flying-to-the-kentucky-derby/

The 144th Running of the Kentucky Derby occurred on Cinco de Mayo – May 5, 2018.  The race was hampered by the biggest Derby Day rainfall in history: 3 inches.  The winner was Justify.  Ironically, the weather was much tougher on Justify and others than what any of the horses will experience traveling by air.