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Racing fans support safety initiatives after recent horse deaths

One horse racing fan said she has seen enough horses get euthanized and feels the new regulations are fair.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Twilight racing at Churchill Downs happened on the same day the track announced changes to protect horses after a string of deaths.

Something that has disturbed race fans.

"I can't take it, that's how bad it hurts me because they try so hard and give it their all," fan Ted Carlisle said.

Churchill Downs announced three initiatives that are supposed to help.

  • A pause of track-based incentives such as trainer start bonuses and purse pay-out allocations to every race finisher through last place. Purse pay-outs will now be limited to the top five finishers.
  • Restricting the number of starts per horse to four starts during a rolling eight-week period.
  • Ineligibility standards for poor performance. Horses that are beaten by more than 12 lengths in five consecutive starts will be ineligible to race at Churchill Downs until approved by the Equine Medical Director to return. 

Matt Hegarty with the Daily Racing Form told WHAS11 it's a start.

"All the trainers there are willing to do whatever it takes if they can try to figure out a way to reduce these injuries to a level that is at least manageable," Hegarty said.

The federal Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) also announced its own measures that are effective immediately:

  1. Effective with Saturday's entries, there will be additional post-entry screenings to identify horses that may be at an increased risk of injury.
  2. HISA has directed the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU) to collect blood and hair samples of all horses that died to further investigate their deaths.
  3. Dr. Alina Vale, an equine forensics specialist, will conduct an additional review of all necropsies performed on the horses. Vale previously investigated the horse deaths at Santa Anita in 2019.

Horse racing fans believe it's a good move.

"I think that will help. I think that would weed some out, I really do," Hegarty said.

Racing journalists told WHAS11 these measures were reasonable decisions to reduce the number of injuries and deaths.

"To make sure that some horses that might be at risk just based on their past performance history rather than their veterinary history might be eliminated from racing," Hegarty said.

Fans at Churchill Downs on Thursday insisted the safety of the horses matters to them.

"I'm a big fan of horse racing, but I'm not a fan of them falling, you know it's hard to see, it's hard to watch them on tv, so anything to make them safer I'm for," fan Walker Nurrenbern said.

Another horse racing fan said she has seen enough horses get euthanized and feels the new regulations are fair.

"I do because I don't want to see the weaker horses out there getting hurt and are the ones getting shot down and it's not fair to them," said Terri Scott said.

The changes started immediately, just in time for twilight racing.

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