Churchill Downs suspends racing as horse deaths rise

Churchill DOwns
Image: Shutterstock

Churchill Downs racetrack has suspended the rest of the Spring meet until July 3 after “an unusual level of horse injuries” detected in the last few weeks. 

The racetrack operator stated that it is bringing events to a halt from June 7 until July 3 to thoroughly review its safety procedures to ensure the spike in injuries and deaths amongst its fleet is not a recurring theme.

Racing did occur over the weekend at Churchill Downs, but the remainder of the race meet will be relocated to Ellis Park Racing & Gaming from Saturday.

It comes as an increase in equine injuries and deaths has been recorded at Churchill Downs over the last few months. The operator noted that the previous month has seen 12 horses suffer fatalities at the racetrack, causing angst amongst CDI, fans, and animal welfare groups. 

“The team at Churchill Downs takes great pride in our commitment to safety and strives to set the highest standard in racing, consistently going above and beyond the regulations and policies that are required,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI. 

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable. Despite our best efforts to identify a cause for the recent horse injuries, and though no issues have been linked to our racing surfaces or environment at Churchill Downs, we need to take more time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all of the details and circumstances so that we can further strengthen our surface, safety, and integrity protocols.”

Reviews into the increase in injuries have been investigated by multiple parties, including internally, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. All investigations have failed to identify a primary reason for the heightened equine risk. 

Consequently, CDI is referring the remainder of its racing calendar to Ellis Park whilst the top-to-bottom review is conducted. 

Carstantjen added: “In addition to our commitment to providing the safest racing environment for our participants, we have an immense responsibility as the economic engine of the Thoroughbred industry in Kentucky which provides jobs and income for thousands of families every day.

“By relocating the remainder of the meet to Ellis Park, we are able to maintain this industry ecosystem with only minor disruption. We are grateful to the Kentucky horsemen for their support, resiliency and continued partnership as we collectively work to find answers during this time.”