LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs is moving the rest of its 2023 Spring Meet to Ellis Park, which is in Henderson, Kentucky, after a dozen horses have died at the track over the last few weeks.
Churchill Downs Inc. made the announcement in a news release Friday afternoon that they will be suspending racing operations at the racetrack starting on June 7, according to Louisville Business First. It is expected to last through July 3.
Races on Saturday and Sunday this weekend are expected to continue as scheduled, the newspaper reported.
“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, in the news release. “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.”
The decision has come after the severity and number of horse deaths over the last few weeks, WLKY reported. Officials have not yet been able to determine if there is a commonality in the horse deaths aside from happening at Churchill Downs.
“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, in the news release. “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.”
Churchill Downs then announced new measures that include, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal:
- Horses will be restricted to four stars during an eight-week period
- Horses will have ineligibility standards. If they are beaten more than 12 lengths in five consecutive starts, they are ineligible. To become eligible, it has to be approved by the Equine Medical Director.
- A pause on track-based incentives such as trainer start bonuses and pay-out allocations.
A trainer told WLKY that some of the horses will remain at Churchill Downs and then will be taken to Ellis Park for racing. Some will also move to Ellis Park if they want to.
Twenty-one race days at Churchill Downs will be canceled at a time that is usually busy with events like Belmont, Father’s Day, and more, the news outlet reported.
Ellis Park is expected to continue to host their summer race which is scheduled from July 7 to Aug. 27, according to the news release.
Twelve horses have been euthanized at Churchill Downs since March 30.
Rio Moon broke his leg as he crossed the finish line during the sixth race at Churchill Downs on May 14, a week after the Kentucky Derby, WLKY-TV reported.
On the day of the Kentucky Derby three weeks ago, Freezing Point suffered a left ankle injury in the Pat Day Mile race. Earlier on the card, Chloe’s Dream, a 3-year-old gelding, was put down during the second race due to a right front knee injury.
Take Charge Briana, a 3-year-old filly, had a “catastrophic” injury on May 2 while taking part in the fifth race on the Churchill Downs turf. She had to be euthanized, WHAS-TV reported. Chasing Artie, a 5-year-old gelding, collapsed after the eighth race and died.
Parents Pride and Chasing Artie, horses that were trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., also were put down, WHAS-TV reported. Their deaths resulted in Joseph’s suspension from Churchill Downs, according to the television station.