Even if you're not a horse-racing fan, you're sure to fall in love with Patch, the Kentucky Derby's one-eyed horse.
When the Kentucky Derby festivities begin at Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon, the talk is sure to be about more than the ladies' eccentric, colored hats. One of the competing horses, a three-year-old thoroughbred named Patch, is fast becoming a fan favorite among under
horse lovers everywhere.
Patch lost his left eye last year when it suddenly became swollen and inflamed. The cause of the issue was never discovered, but the eye only grew worse, eventually resulting in its removal. Now all that's left is an empty socket. The weird thing? He was already named "Patch."
The horse isn't the first one to compete in the Derby with only one eye. Patch is actually the fourth, though none of the previous one-eyed horses won the big prize.
“We very commonly have situations where racehorses have to have their eyes removed, and the majority of racehorse trainers don’t even think twice about it,” said Nicole M. Scherrer, a clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology at the New Bolton Center of University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
And Patch's trainer Todd Pletcher has a lot of confidence in his ability, regardless of his handicap. For starters, his quick recovery following the eye removal was extremely encouraging.
“After a couple weeks we were like, ‘This horse is fine,'” Pletcher said. “I mean, there is common sense stuff, like I don’t come up to him without letting him know I’m there. You don’t want to startle him, things like that. But really, you really wouldn’t know it and you don’t really have to do anything special with him either from a rider standpoint on the track or around the barn.”
While some one-eyed horses wear a prosthesis, Patch does not. And while the disability could somewhat affect his ability to succeed, experts say horses' large eyes and horizontal pupils give them a wide view of 350 degrees.
“Just because the one eye was removed doesn’t mean that they can’t see anything on that side. So if the left eye is removed, the right eye looks out in front and can actually see a little bit to the left as well," Scherrer said. "It definitely makes me very happy for [Patch] to go out and do this successfully and show people that horses with one eye adjust amazingly,” she added.