LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Veterinarian Will Farmer is the first-ever equine medical director in the 145-year history of Churchill Downs.
He is also a living, breathing sign of the times as the sport is under unprecedented public scrutiny following a recent spike in fatal injuries to thoroughbreds.
“They see the need for a veterinarian to be here on our behalf, on Churchill’s behalf, so that we can intercede for the horse and those horses that participate on all of our tracks," Farmer said. "That’s not just Churchill Downs; (it’s) on all of our Churchill tracks across the country so that we can be an advocate for those horses and the safety and their welfare.”
Farmer said he will have the authority to work with state regulators and provide an added layer of oversight to prevent potentially at-risk horses from racing.
“When it comes down to it if there’s a horse that I determine should not be running or is not a safe fit to race, that horse will come out,” Farmer said.
Farmer said he will be looking for risk factors like any irregularities in a horse’s training and race patterns, as well as medical records and medication.
“By taking an in-depth look at the medical records of horses, increasing our surveillance of horses, of the medical exams, the veterinary exams that are being done on horses,” Farmer said, “we can help minimize that risk to a horse when it is participating in a race.”
Farmer was named to the new post in November.