Jun 2, 2023 - Sports

Churchill Downs suspends races after a dozen horse deaths

The first turn at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2020.

The first turn at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2020. Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Churchill Downs, the historic home of the Kentucky Derby, said Friday it will suspend racing operations for several weeks after 12 horses died and others were injured at the Louisville racetrack over the past month.

Driving the news: Churchill Downs said the suspension, which takes effect June 7, is necessary to review its safety and surface protocols.

  • Races for its current spring-summer meet will go forward this weekend, while the remaining races will be relocated to Ellis Park in Henderson, Kentucky.

What they're saying: The racetrack said it "has seen an unusual number of horse injuries over the previous month," and that initial investigations by horse-racing authorities had not identified a "single factor" behind the deaths.

  • Still, Churchill Downs said it was relocating races "in an abundance of caution, and in alignment with a recommendation from" the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority to allow for a "a top-to-bottom review of all safety and surface protocols and integrity measures in collaboration and consultation with nationwide experts."
  • "What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable," Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs, said in a statement Friday.

The big picture: Seven horses died at Churchill Downs in the days before the Kentucky Derby on May 6.

  • One trainer was suspended from the track after two of his horses collapsed and died after racing at Churchill Downs.

Go deeper: Deaths cast shadow over Derby

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