Vet summit analzying horse deaths at Churchill Downs begins

They're trying to find common links between the 12 horses that died so far during Churchill Downs' spring meet.
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 3:52 PM EDT

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A growing sense of urgency overhangs national horse racing safety leaders as horses racing at Churchill Downs keep dying.

“As the numbers added up the urgency became clear that something more comprehensive, more significant, more emergent should happen now,” Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) CEO Lisa Lazarus said.

She said veterinarians from Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and HISA began meeting Tuesday afternoon to find any common link between these horses. One issue though, HISA only has access to records going back to last July.

“We’ll use whatever the veterinarians think is helpful, relevant and instructive, we’ll use that obviously,” Lazarus said.

“Are we at the point that live racing should be paused at Churchill Downs,” WAVE News Reporter Mark Stevens asked.

“That is what we’re trying to determine through this process,” Lazarus said.

Animal Wellness Action’s Communications Director Joseph Grove said racing must stop for now.

“It can’t be about anything else right now but the horses, they’re the ones dying on the track,” Grove said.

Lazarus said they have the authority to make safety recommendations including replacing a dirt track with a synthetic one. But she said they don’t believe Churchill Downs’ track is the issue.

“I’ve not had a single jockey or trainer tell me that they believe the track is a factor in these fatalities,” Lazarus said.

Clusters of racing deaths have also gone unsolved before. Lazarus feels they’ve got the right people to get to the bottom of this.

“Hopefully we as a team really come up with processes or different approaches to make everyone feel confident to continue racing that this is not going to recur,” Lazarus said.

Its not clear HISA has the authority to stop racing at Churchill Downs.

But HISA believes if it determines racing needs to stop Churchill will follow.

They’re trying to come up with a decision by Wednesday night.