Racing Suspended at Churchill Downs After 12 Horse Deaths

Venue is moving its current thoroughbred meet to Ellis Park in wake of 'unusual' number of deaths
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2023 7:30 AM CDT
Racing Suspended at Churchill Downs After 12 Horse Deaths
Horses compete in the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs on May 6 in Louisville, Kentucky.   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Churchill Downs is suspending racing operations and moving the rest of its spring meet after a series of mysterious horse deaths. CBS News reports that 12 horses have died at the Louisville, Kentucky, racetrack since April 27, spurring the suspension that will run from Wednesday through July 3. Although racing will go on as scheduled on Saturday and Sunday, the remainder of the venue's thoroughbred Spring Meet will temporarily relocate to Ellis Park in Henderson, about two hours away.

"Churchill Downs Racetrack has seen an unusual number of horse injuries over the previous month resulting in 12 equine fatalities," the company says in a release. It notes that after a comprehensive internal probe and outside investigations, "no single factor has been identified as a potential cause and no discernable pattern has been detected to link the fatalities." Testing has also been done on the racetrack's surface, and it was determined that surface is "consistent with prior measurements" in past years.

The day before the move announcement, Churchill Downs and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority said that new safety initiatives would be introduced, including further screening to make sure horses are OK to race. That has some wondering why a temporary relocation is necessary. "It seems odd that they would implement new safety precautions and announce those ... but the next day there is talk of moving to Ellis Park," one anonymous horse owner tells the Courier Journal. Others, however, are fine with the decision. "We wake up every day dealing with change," trainer Ron Moquett says. "As long as we can take care of the horses, I'm OK." (More Churchill Downs stories.)

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