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Racing suspended at Churchill Downs following spate of horse deaths 

Featured image credit: Kybluegrass/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size

Featured image credit: Kybluegrass/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size

Racing operations at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, will be suspended from tomorrow (Wednesday) following the deaths of 12 horses at the venue over the past month.

The announcement from parent company Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) covers the remainder of the venue’s spring meet, which is scheduled to run until July 3. Racing was held as scheduled at Churchill Downs at the weekend but the remainder of the meet will be relocated to Ellis Park Racing & Gaming in Henderson, Kentucky from this Saturday, June 10.

CDI said the track has seen an “unusual number” of horse injuries over the previous month, resulting in 12 fatalities. A thorough internal review and concurrent investigations conducted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) did not identify a single factor as a potential cause for the injuries, and no discernible pattern was detected to link the fatalities.

Diagnostic testing of the racetrack by experts did not raise concerns, with experts concluding that the surface is consistent with prior measurements from the venue in past years.

CDI has elected to relocate the meet so it can conduct a “top-to-bottom review” of all safety and surface protocols and integrity measures in collaboration and consultation with nationwide experts. The decision has been taken following a recommendation from the HISA.

Ellis Park traditionally hosts a summer race meet in Kentucky that is scheduled from July 7 to August 27 this year.

Bill Carstanjen, chief executive of CDI, said: “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.

“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.”

Next year will mark the 150th staging of the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs Racetrack recently detailed plans for a range of fan-focused enhancements at the venue in the lead-up to the race.