After 12 horse deaths at Churchill Downs, national oversight body calls emergency summit

A federally created horse racing oversight body has called an emergency veterinary summit for Tuesday in Lexington following the deaths of 12 horses in the last five weeks at Churchill Downs.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) announced the summit and other steps Monday to ensure horse safety at the famed Louisville racetrack.

“We remain deeply concerned by the unusually high number of equine fatalities at Churchill Downs over the last several weeks,” the national authority said in a news release.

The summit will convene veterinary officials from the authority, Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to review available information and run more analysis to shed more light on the recent deaths.

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The horse racing authority is also sending well-known track superintendent Dennis Moore to the track to analyze its racing and training surfaces. Authority CEO Lisa Lazarus and Racetrack Safety Director Ann McGovern will be in Louisville for that review, set for Wednesday.

The authority is also sending its director of equine safety to the track “to ensure optimal veterinary oversight of the horses.”

The field for the 149th Running of the Kentucky Derby makes it way by the grandstands on Saturday, May 6, 2023, at Churchill Downs.
The field for the 149th Running of the Kentucky Derby makes it way by the grandstands on Saturday, May 6, 2023, at Churchill Downs.

Twelve horses have died since April 27, an unusually high number of fatalities that has placed the home of the Kentucky Derby under much scrutiny.

The most recent deaths were Lost in Limbo and Kimberley Dream, who sustained leg injuries May 26 and 27, respectively, and were euthanized.

Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in a statement Monday the company respects HISA's authority and its investigative process.

"We have worked in full compliance with HISA regulations over the last several weeks and welcome the additional steps they have outlined today," he said in a statement. "Together we all want what is best for the horses and participants and will cooperate with any measures to ensure the safest racing environment possible and to restore the trust and confidence of our fans and the public."

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In a statement issued May 27, Churchill Downs said it was “troubled” by the string of horse deaths.

“We do not accept this as suitable or tolerable and share the frustrations of the public,” the statement read, in part.

HISA, based in Kentucky, is a private, self-regulatory organization created by the U.S. Congress in 2020 to draft and enforce uniform safety and integrity rules.

It, along with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, are conducting investigations into each of the horse’s deaths.

This story may be updated.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: HISA calls for emergency summit at Churchill Downs after horse deaths