Churchill Downs will suspend its current thoroughbred meet at the conclusion of Sunday’s card to examine safety measures after 12 equine fatalities in the last month, the track’s parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., announced on Friday.
The meet, originally scheduled to run through July 3 at the Louisville racetrack, will resume on June 10 at Ellis Park in Henderson Kentucky, about two hours down the road. The company plans to conduct a “top-to-bottom review of all safety and surface protocols and integrity measures in collaboration and consultation with nationwide experts.”
The move comes in the wake of intense scrutiny aimed at the track after 12 horses died between April 27 and May 27, beginning with Kentucky Derby contender Wild on Ice, who broke down in a workout on April 27. The most recent fatalities occurred on May 26 and May 27 after Kimberley Dream and Lost in Limbo were euthanized to due injuries that occurred during races that weekend.
Churchill Downs Inc., said in a statement that there has been no factor linking all of the fatalities, and testing of the track surface has not revealed any abnormalities.
“Following a thorough internal review and concurrent investigations conducted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (“KHRC”) and Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (“HISA”), no single factor has been identified as a potential cause and no discernable pattern has been detected to link the fatalities,” the company said in a statement on Friday.
Churchill Downs released a statement on Thursday regarding new safety measures after conducting an emergency meeting between track officials and horsemen earlier in the week. Those new measures included restricting horses to starting in four races during a rolling eight-week period. It also stated that any horse beaten more than 12 lengths in five consecutive starts would not be able to race again until approved by their Equine Medical Director.
Moving a meet to another track is a rare and almost unprecedented move in modern racing, with the most notable being the move of the 2005 Fair Grounds meet to Louisiana Downs after the track sustained damage in Hurricane Katrina. Belmont Park also moved its fall meet to Aqueduct Racetrack last year due to construction in the Belmont Park infield. Neither move occurred during the race meeting.
Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, briefly suspended racing in March 2019 to evaluate safety measures in the middle of a streak of fatalities but did not move its meet despite pressure to do so. The Southern California racetrack saw 30 equine fatalities between Dec. 26, 2018 and the meets end in June 2019.