Churchill Downs to improve track maintenance, veterinary resources for fall meet after horse deaths

FILE - Fans watch a race before the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., May 2, 2015. Racing will resume at Churchill Downs in September 2023 with no changes being made after a review of surfaces and safety protocols in the wake of 12 horse deaths, including seven in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby in May. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File) (Charlie Riedel, Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Churchill Downs will implement safety measures for its September meet including new track surface maintenance equipment and additional monitoring and equine care following 12 horse deaths before and after the Kentucky Derby that spurred suspension of its spring meet.

Racing is scheduled to resume Sept. 14 and run through Oct. 1 at the historic track, which paused racing operations on June 7 to conduct an internal safety review following the spate of horse deaths from racing or training injuries. Seven died in the days leading up to the 149th Derby on May 6, including two in races preceding the premier event.

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The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority recommended suspending the remainder of the meet, which moved to Ellis Park in western Kentucky. Training continued at Churchill Downs during the investigation, and a release on Monday stated that while industry experts found no issues with the racing surfaces, the track invested in new maintenance equipment. It will also double the frequency of surface testing among infrastructure upgrades.

Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said the track’s commitment to safety “remains paramount” in the release and added, “our participants, fans and the public can be assured that we will continue to investigate, evaluate and improve upon every policy and protocol.”

The announcement comes days after Carstanjen said racing would resume this fall with no changes and called the deaths “a series of unfortunate circumstances” in an earnings call with CDI investors.

Churchill Downs veterinarians will receive additional resources for specialized horse care and to assist in pre-race inspections and entry screening, the release added. The track will work with HISA and industry experts to predict at-risk horses through advanced analytic techniques.

A safety management committee including horsemen, track employees and veterinarians will also be created.


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