Churchill Downs will suspend its current thoroughbred meet at the conclusion of Sunday's card to examine safety measures after 12 equine fatalities in the past month, the track's parent company, Churchill Downs Inc., announced Friday.
The meet, originally scheduled to run through July 3 at the Louisville, Kentucky, racetrack, will resume June 10 at Ellis Park in Henderson, Kentucky, about two hours away. The company said it plans to conduct a "top-to-bottom review of all safety and surface protocols and integrity measures in collaboration and consultation with nationwide experts."
The move comes in the wake of intense scrutiny aimed at the track after 12 horses died from April 27 to May 27, beginning with Kentucky Derby contender Wild on Ice, who broke down in an April 27 workout. The most recent fatalities occurred May 26-27, when Kimberley Dream and Lost in Limbo were euthanized because of injuries that occurred during races that weekend.
Churchill Downs Inc. said in a statement that there has been no common factor linking the fatalities, and testing of the track surface has not revealed any abnormalities.
"Following a thorough internal review and concurrent investigations conducted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission ['KHRC'] and Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority ['HISA'], no single factor has been identified as a potential cause and no discernable pattern has been detected to link the fatalities," the company said in its statement Friday.
Churchill Downs had released a statement Thursday regarding new safety measures after conducting an emergency meeting between track officials and horsemen earlier in the week. Those measures included restricting horses to starting in four races during a rolling eight-week period. It also stated that any horse beaten more than 12 lengths in five consecutive starts would not be able to race again until approved by the equine medical director.
Shifting a meet to another track is rare in modern racing, with the most notable example being the move of the 2005 Fair Grounds slate to Louisiana Downs after the track sustained damage during Hurricane Katrina. Belmont Park moved its fall meet to Aqueduct Racetrack last year because of construction in the infield. Neither move occurred during the race meeting, however.
Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, briefly suspended racing in March 2019 to evaluate safety measures in the middle of a streak of fatalities but did not move its meet despite pressure to do so. The Southern California racetrack had 30 equine fatalities from Dec. 26, 2018, to the meet's end in June 2019.