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Churchill Downs sets new safety initiatives following emergency summit

These new safety initiatives and precautionary measures will go into effect immediately.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has set new safety initiatives and precautionary measures following an emergency summit to address the recent horse deaths on the track.

Twelve horses have died since the start of the season on March 30.

California-based equine surgeon Dr. Ryan Carpenter attended the meeting and provided necessary insight into how to better protect the trainers and horses at Churchill Downs.

Dr. Will Farmer, equine medical director for Churchill Downs, said the veterinarians and trainers at Churchill Downs are "incredibly capable and knowledgeable."

HISA chief: Churchill Downs would accept recommendation to pause racing if needed

“We feel a duty to provide the latest information on surgical interventions from an expert who experienced the challenges in California a few years ago that we currently face today," Farmer said.

Churchill Downs initiatives announced at Thursday’s meeting: 

  • 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. 

These initiatives will go into effect immediately, according to Churchill Downs Racetrack.

"Any decision must be made first and foremost with the long-term well-being of the horse in mind," Farmer said. "It is imperative that all available, educated and informed options can be efficiently, confidently and thoroughly relayed to the owners.”

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