Churchill Downs announces new safety initiatives

*JUNE 2 UPDATE: A day after implementing the measures outline below, Churchill Downs announced that it will suspend racing on June 7 and shift the remainder of its spring race meet to Ellis Park Racing & Gaming (“Ellis Park”) in Henderson, Kentucky.


June 1, 2023 – Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky announced today new safety initiatives and precautionary measures following a special meeting between track officials and horsemen based at Churchill Downs and Trackside Training Center Louisville. 

‘Well-being of the horse in mind’

The Thursday morning meeting included a presentation by California-based equine surgeon Dr. Ryan Carpenter, who provided educational information and tools to trainers and practicing veterinarians about advanced interventions that can be considered for certain equine injuries. 

Three racehorses head toward the wire
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“The attending veterinarians and trainers at Churchill Downs are incredibly capable and knowledgeable,” said Dr. Will Farmer, Equine Medical Director for Churchill Downs Incorporated. “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.

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

Additional initiatives

Additional Churchill Downs initiatives announced at Thursday’s meeting included: 

 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. Churchill Downs is engaged in ongoing discussions with horsemen to determine ways to reallocate these funds to best serve industry needs; 

 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 additional initiatives will go into effect immediately. 

About Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”), the world’s most legendary racetrack, has been the home of the Kentucky Derby, the longest continually held annual sporting event in the United States, since 1875. Located in Louisville, CDRT features a series of themed race days during Derby Week, including the Kentucky Oaks, and conducts Thoroughbred horse racing during three race meets.

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