Churchill Downs, Home of the Kentucky Derby, Suspends Racing Operations After Rise in Horse Injuries and Deaths in Recent Weeks

Churchill Downs, which has been the official ‘Home of the Kentucky Derby’ since its opening in 1875, will be suspending its operations – starting on June 7 and lasting until July 3. The announcement comes after the track experienced a string of horse injuries over the past month, resulting in the deaths of 12 horses. 

The racetrack is currently in the midst of its annual Spring Meet, which will continue at Churchill Downs for Saturday (June 3) and Sunday (June 4). Between June 7 and July 3, live races will be moved to Ellis Park Racing & Gaming in Henderson, Kentucky, with the first race being held on Saturday (June 10). 

The news was announced by the racetrack’s parent company, Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), in a statement that was released on their official website on June 2. The CEO of the company is dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of all horses who compete at the track. More details will be released soon. 

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According to the statement, CDI has already conducted a ‘thorough internal review’ of the 12 equine fatalities – followed by further investigations conducted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA). Unfortunately, no cause was found. 

Officials weren’t able to find a ‘single factor’ that could’ve caused the deaths and found ‘no discernable pattern’ to link the deaths to one another. Not only that, but initial diagnostics testing on the track has shown no difference compared to testing that was done in previous years – adding to the confusion. 

While the racetrack’s surface appears to be fine and officials were unable to find any other potential cause for the sudden rise in injuries and deaths, CDI wants to ‘conduct a top-to-bottom review of all safety and surface protocols and integrity measures in collaboration and consultation with nationwide experts.’

Churchill Downs is one of the most historic, legendary, notable, renowned, and iconic racetracks in the entire world. It’s the home of the Kentucky Derby, which is one of three races that make up the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing – the other two races being the Belmont Stakes and Preakness Stakes. 

Churchill Downs’ CEO Committed to Bettering the Environment

The efforts by the CDI, HISA, and KHRC haven’t revealed anything of importance yet, but all parties involved are committed to bettering the environment and doing whatever needs to be done to ensure horses can race freely and safely at Churchill Downs. The CEO of CDI echoed those sentiments. 

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” Bill Carstanjen said. “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.”

The CDI, HISA, and KHRC will continue to search for ways to ‘further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.’ They’re also aware that the decision to suspend operations doesn’t just affect the horses and jockeys, but also the many employees who rely on Churchill Downs to provide for their family. 

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“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,” Carstanjen continued.

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