A Bluegrass Whodunnit

Horse attack_071103_CBS Evening News
Tradition dictates this should be one of the great weeks in the rarefied world of American saddlebreds. The Lexington Junior League horse show is one of the major competitions for prancers and their big money owners. It should be a great week -- but it's not, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod.

"Words cannot describe what I see; what these vets see everyday. Nobody has ever seen anything like this," said Dena Lopez.

She is talking about five of the saddlebreds she trains at the Double D ranch.

Two weeks ago, someone snuck into the barns in the middle of the night and injected all five horses with an unknown toxin that attacked their flesh. The vets had to cut out the dead tissue -- going all the way to the bone. It's not the careers of prize saddlebreds like "Wicked" that are in jeopardy -- it's their lives.

"This isn't just some nice horse that somebody decided to attack," Lopez said. "Oh no, you could compare him to Michael Jordan in basketball, Tiger Woods in golf. He's that kind of horse -- as good as it gets in this breed."

The horses are now given daily treatments in a hyperbaric chamber. Pure oxygen helps the flesh grow back faster.

"I been around 30 years and seen a lot of tough cases and have never seen anything of this magnitude or concentration in such a small area," said Rick Redden.

The state police agree -- this is no accident. Which begs a question that might hit in this part of America - horse country - harder than anywhere else. What kind of person would do this to an innocent horse?

"This has to be somebody very maniacal and very focused. Strong intent to do what's been done here," said officer Sam Hawkins.

It's a bluegrass whodunnit with a blue blood Who's Who. The attacks have made for a buzz of genteel whispers here, where one horse's misfortune could be another's blessing.

And what are the chances the attacker is some competitor?

"I wouldn't rule out anything at this point," Hawkins said. "At this point everything is wide open."

Everything that is, but the entrance to the Double D. They just installed a new security gate.