As federal and state regulators continue to investigate the deaths of 12 horses at Churchill over the past five weeks, racing at Churchill Downs will be canceled and moved to another Kentucky racetrack, the company said. announced in a statement on Friday.
Live racing was scheduled to continue Saturday and Sunday at the home of the Kentucky Derby, before moving to Ellis Park, another racetrack owned by Churchill Downs in Henderson, Kentucky, next week. The Churchill race was due to end on July 3rd. Ellis Park will host a traditional summer race event from July 7th to August 27th.
experts invited by Horse Racing Fairness and Safety Authority We are investigating a series of horse deaths, two of which occurred on the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 6, but have so far been unable to detect a pattern in the deaths.
Racecourse diagnostics have raised no concerns and the dirt and grass surface appears to be consistent with measurements at Churchill Downs over the past few years. The company nevertheless announced that it would change the location of the event, although “there are no issues related to our race surface”.
“What happened at our racetrack is extremely upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” said Churchill Downs CEO Bill Kirstangen. We need to spend more time looking into it,” he said. In doing so, we will be able to further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols. “
Lisa Lazarus, chief executive of the Horseracing Fairness and Safety Authority, said in a statement that the cause of death has not been determined, and therefore it is unclear what will change, and officials have asked Churchill Downs to cancel the race. said to have recommended. make.
The death casts a shadow over the Triple Crown season, a few weeks each spring when casual sports fans pay close attention to horse racing and enjoy the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
Some trainers were unhappy with Churchill Downs’ plans to change the event. They also criticized other precautions recently implemented at the circuit.
Rick Hyles, president of the Kentucky Jockey Charitable Conservation Association, said in a statement: “Racing officials have questioned the purpose of this unprecedented action, especially in the absence of conclusive evidence that there is a problem at Churchill Downs. I’m holding you,” he said. “We all want to find solutions that improve the safety of horses. Drastic measures, such as moving race venues during the race, should only be considered when they are sure to make a difference.”
Thursday, Churchill Downs take measures This was to prevent trainers from running unhealthy horses. These same rules apply at Ellis Park.
A statement from the company said the track would no longer offer incentives to trainers who run races or pay prize money from first to last. Instead, payouts are limited to the top five.
In addition, horses are allowed to run only four times during the eight-week rolling period, and horses that lose by more than 12 horse lengths in five consecutive runs are disqualified until the horse doctor approves their return to racing.
The change suggests that Churchill believes that a bonus policy aimed at providing a fuller field for general bettors may have influenced jockeys’ decision-making. .
Dr Jennifer Durenberger, Director of Horse Safety and Welfare at the Horse Racing Fairness and Safety Authority, met with veterinarians in Churchill Downs and Kentucky this week to review the autopsies, toxicology reports and veterinarian and trainer records of deaths. scrutinized.
On Wednesday, longtime California racetrack manager Dennis Moore surveyed Churchill and conducted his own analysis of the racing suitability of the dirt and turf courses. The investigation is ongoing and the results of the investigation will be made public once completed, officials said.