Racing to resume at Churchill Downs amid concerns over horse fatalities

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:25 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - With fall racing set to begin at Churchill Downs Thursday, track officials appeared focused on Kentucky Derby 150 and the future.

“That’s part of our obligation at Churchill Downs,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said. “Keep it fresh, keep it new keep growing, keep introducing new things.”

A ceremonial topping off of the track’s new paddock Wednesday came on the heels of an investigation, that found no clear reason for a spate of horse fatalities at Churchill in the spring.

12 horses died in a month, forcing spring racing to move to another track.

A months-long investigation by the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) dug deeply into Churchill Downs operations. The 197-page report released Tuesday examined multiple factors, including time horses spent on and off the track, how fast they ran, their injuries and where they happened on the track, in addition to the composition and maintenance of the track itself.

However, the findings were inconclusive. Why so many horses died in such a short period of time at the nation’s premier track remains a mystery, with no guarantee it won’t happen again.

Both Carstanjen and Racetrack President Mike Anderson left the ceremony without taking questions, but not before leaving no doubt about the impact of the state’s signature industry.

”It’s a major, major industry in the state,” Carstanjen said. “It employs 60,000 people. It generates hundreds of millions of dollars, billions of dollars of economic activity.”