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National horseracing safety entity to conduct 'thorough investigation' into Churchill Downs horse deaths

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

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Twelve horses have died at Churchill Downs since the start of the 2023 season.

A national horseracing safety entity is stepping in, conducting an independent investigation into the "unusually high" number of horse fatalities at the track over the last several weeks.

Well-known trainer Dale Romans' thoroughbred, Rio Moon, is part of the string of horses euthanized recently. Roman said he has faith authorities and Churchill Downs will find answers.

"If it's something to do with a racetrack, we'll figure it out. They will figure it out," he said. 

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) said in a press release they are "deeply concerned" and are working diligently with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) to get to the bottom of this.

In addition to the investigation, HISA has called an emergency veterinary summit to be held on Tuesday, May 30, in Kentucky.

The Churchill Downs, KHRC and HISA veterinary teams will thoroughly review what happened and attempt to understand the events surrounding the recent fatalities.

HISA has dispatched well-renowned, seasoned track superintendent Dennis Moore to provide a second and independent analysis of Churchill Downs’ racing and training surfaces.  

During the course of this review, which will begin Wednesday, May 31, HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus and Racetrack Safety Director Ann McGovern will travel to Churchill Downs to receive the results of the analysis.

HISA has also dispatched its Director of Equine Safety and Welfare, Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, to provide additional, on-site veterinary expertise.

HISA said they wish to ensure the safest environment possible for horses racing at Churchill Downs and will determine what next steps are appropriate as they learn more information.

In the meantime, Romans says he and others will be there in support of authorities and the remaining horses.

"Nothing that's happening right now makes any sense," he said. "But we're all working in the same direction, all working together, whether you're adversaries or you're partners because we all put the welfare of the horse first "

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