Churchill Downs Suspends Racing Operations

Thoroughbred racing at Churchill Downs
Published: June 5, 2023 03:01 pm EDT

Churchill Downs announced on Friday, June 2 that it will suspend racing operations at the Thoroughbred racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky, beginning on Wednesday, June 7 through the remainder of the Spring Meet, which was scheduled to run to July 3.

The remainder of the race meet will be relocated to Ellis Park Racing & Gaming in Henderson, Kentucky, beginning on Saturday, June 10.

Churchill Downs has seen an unusual number of horse injuries over the previous month resulting in 12 equine fatalities. 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. Diagnostics testing of the racetrack by experts have not raised concerns and the experts have concluded that the surface is consistent with prior measurements from Churchill Downs in past years. Even though the investigations and expert reports have indicated no surface issues, in an abundance of caution, and in alignment with a recommendation from HISA, Churchill Downs has elected to relocate the meet in order to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all safety and surface protocols and integrity measures in collaboration and consultation with nationwide experts.  

“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,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI. “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.

“In addition to our commitment to providing the safest racing environment for our participants, we have an immense responsibility as the economic engine of the Thoroughbred industry in Kentucky, which provides jobs and income for thousands of families every day,” Carstanjen continued. “By relocating the remainder of the meet to Ellis Park, we are able to maintain this industry ecosystem with only minor disruption. We are grateful to the Kentucky horsemen for their support, resiliency and continued partnership as we collectively work to find answers during this time.”    

Ellis Park traditionally hosts a summer race meet in Kentucky that is scheduled from July 7 to Aug. 27. The new safety initiatives announced by Churchill Downs earlier this week will remain in effect for the remainder of this meet at Ellis Park.  

(With files from Churchill Downs)

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