Churchill Downs and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) announced new safety initiatives in response to 12 horses dying at the famous Louisville track since April 27. According to HISA, no "obvious or specific pattern" emerged from the investigation, but the home of the Kentucky Derby is still going to implement additional safety measures.
"HISA continues to urgently seek additional answers to more clearly identify the causes of these recent fatalities as well as tangible interventions to prevent them in the future," read a statement from HISA. "All options remain on the table, and HISA will continue to vigilantly monitor events at Churchill Downs moving forward."
There was anin which three main points of intervention were discussed: injury management, preventing at-risk horses from racing via veterinary scrutiny and preventing at-risk horses from entering.
"HISA's highest priority is the safety and well-being of the horses and riders competing under its jurisdiction," read a statement released by HISA on Monday. "We remain deeply concerned by the unusually high number of equine fatalities at Churchill Downs over the last several weeks."
There will now be an additional layer of post-entry screening by HISA's Director of Equine Safety and Welfare.
HISA also announced the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit (HIWU) will be collecting blood and hair samples for all fatalities involving covered horses, and those results will be used to facilitate investigations. The data will help track relevant statistics and trends.
Meanwhile, Equine forensics specialist Dr. Alina Vale has been appointed to conduct an additional review of all necropsies performed on covered horses.
Seasoned track superintendent Dennis Moore started working on analyzing Churchill Downs' racing and training surfaces on Wednesday. HISA said his conclusions will be shared publicly once the review is complete.
In a separate press release, Churchill Downs described the other initiatives their track will be taking. This includes restricting the number of starts per horse to four during a rolling eight-week period.
There will also be "ineligibility standards for poor performance." This means that horses who lose a race by more than 12 lengths in five consecutive starts will not be allowed to race at Churchill Downs until approved by the equine medical director.
For now, purse pay-outs will now be limited to just the top five finishers instead of every race finisher through last place. Trainer start bonuses have also been paused. Churchills Downs is still trying to determine "ways to reallocate these funds to best serve industry needs."
The tragic fatalities are unfortunately not new to the sport.than five years ago. Will Farmer -- the equine medical director for Churchill Downs Incorporated -- said the focus for the Louisville track needs to be long-term solutions.
"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," Farmer said. "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."