Churchill Downs to suspend races and examine safety measures after 12 horse deaths

Churchill Downs to suspend races and examine safety measures after 12 horse deaths

Churchill Downs will suspend races to perform a safety check after multiple horse deaths. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Churchill Downs will suspend races and examine its safety measures after 12 horses died at the track in recent months, Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) announced Friday.

In a statement, CDI said the move was made due to an "unusual number of horse injuries over the previous month resulting in 12 equine fatalities." Some of those deaths came in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. Churchill Downs suspended trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. and pulled one of his horses, Lord Miles, from the Kentucky Derby after two horses trained by Joseph died days before the event.

Bill Carstanjen, the CEO of CDI, called the deaths "deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable." He also said:

“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.”

CDI said it was unable to find a reason or pattern that would explain the deaths. It said the track will be shut down out of "an abundance of caution."

The race suspension won't begin until Wednesday. Races scheduled for Saturday and Sunday will still take place at Churchill Downs. Starting June 10, some of the races that were supposed to take place at Churchill Downs will be moved to Ellis Park in Henderson, Kentucky.


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