Churchill Downs strikes assembly to Ellis Park after 12 horses die

  • Katherine Terrell, ESPN staff writerJun 2, 2023 5:39pm ET


    • Covers the NFL since 2013
    • He previously covered the Saints for Times-Picayune and The Athletic
    • From 2016 to 2019 he was the Bengals winner for ESPN

Churchill Downs will suspend its current thoroughbred meeting after the conclusion of Sunday’s map to review safety measures following 12 fatal horse accidents last month, the track’s parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., announced on Friday.

The meeting, originally scheduled to last until July 3 at the Louisville, Kentucky, race track, will resume on June 10 at Ellis Park in Henderson, Kentucky, about two hours away. The company said it plans to “undertake a comprehensive review of all security and surface protocols and integrity measures, in collaboration and consultation with experts across the country.”

The move follows an intense scrutiny of the circuit after 12 horses died between April 27 and May 27, led by Kentucky Derby contender Wild on Ice, who broke down during practice on April 27 had. The most recent deaths occurred on May 26 and 27 when Kimberley Dream and Lost were euthanized at Limbo from injuries sustained in races this weekend.

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Churchill Downs Inc. said in a statement there was no common factor linking the fatalities and the track surface inspection found nothing abnormal.

“Following a thorough internal review and concurrent investigations by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission [‘KHRC’] and Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority [‘HISA’]”No single factor has been identified as a potential cause and no discernible pattern has been identified that could link the deaths,” the company said in its statement on Friday.

Churchill Downs had released a statement on new safety measures on Thursday after holding an emergency meeting between track officials and riders earlier in the week. These measures included restricting the participation of horses in four races within an eight-week period. It also states that any horse that has hit more than 12 lengths in five consecutive starts cannot race again until approved by the equine medical director.

Moving a competition to a different track is rare in modern racing. The most notable example is the relocation of the 2005 Fair Grounds tournament to Louisiana Downs after the course was damaged during Hurricane Katrina. Due to construction on the infield, Belmont Park moved its fall meet to the Aqueduct Racetrack last year. However, there was no movement during the race briefing.

Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, briefly suspended racing in March 2019 to review safety procedures, despite a string of fatalities. The Southern California circuit claimed the lives of 30 horses from December 26, 2018 through the end of the race in June 2019.

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