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Horse racing paused at Churchill Downs after recent horse deaths

Since the track's stables reopened in March, a dozen horses have died.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Horse racing has been paused at Churchill Downs in the wake of the recent equine deaths at the Kentucky Derby racetrack.

Since the track's stables reopened in March, a dozen horses have died. Eleven were euthanized due to injuries on the track.

All races are being moved from Churchill to Ellis Park located in Henderson, Kentucky.

Races on Saturday, June 3, and Sunday, June 4 are expected to move forward as planned at Churchill Downs. The rest of the Spring Meet will move to Ellis Park starting Saturday, June 10.

Ellis Park was acquired by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) in 2022.

Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI, said what has happened in recent weeks at the world-renowned 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,” he said.

Carstanjen said the move to Ellis Park, which typically holds a Summer Meet from July through August, is expected to cause little disruption to the industry.

This week, the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) and Churchill Downs officials announced new safety measures to prevent further injuries on the track. 

Equine experts have yet to find a discernable pattern among the recent spike in horse deaths.

A second analysis of Churchill's racing and training surfaces began on Wednesday. An earlier track analysis found nothing unusual.

The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, which represents owners and trainers, didn't support the decision.

Horsemen question the purpose of this unprecedented step, especially without conclusive evidence that there is a problem with the racetrack at Churchill Downs. Drastic steps, such as relocating an active race meet, should only be considered when it is certain to make a difference.

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