Churchill Downs, home track of the Kentucky Derby, has adopted new safety measures following a recent spate of equine deaths at the iconic venue / © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File
Churchill Downs, home racetrack of the Kentucky Derby, announced new safety measures on Thursday following 12 recent equine deaths, including limiting horses to four starts in eight weeks.
The moves, to begin immediately, came after a special meeting Thursday involving track officials and horse owners based at the famed Louisville, Kentucky, track.
Horses will be restricted to four starts in a rolling eight-week span with eligibility bans for poor performing horses.
Horses beaten by more than 12 lengths in five consecutive starts will be ineligible to race at Churchill Downs until approved to return by the track's equine medical director.
Officials also paused a program of track-based incentives, including trainer start bonuses and purse payout allocations to every race finisher through last. Purse payouts will be limited to the top-five finishers.
Churchill Downs officials are in talks with horse owners about how to reallocate funds best for the industry.
Mage won the Kentucky Derby on May 6 but that capped a tumultuous week at the iconic grounds where seven horses died within 10 days, two euthanized in support races on Derby day -- Chloe's Dream and Freezing Point -- after being taken from the course by horse ambulance.
The meeting also received a presentation from California-based equine surgeon Dr. Ryan Carpenter regarding advanced interventions that could be considered for certain equine injuries.
"Attending veterinarians and trainers at Churchill Downs are incredibly capable and knowledgeable," track equine medical director Dr. Will Farmer said.
"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.
"Any decision must be made first and foremost with the long-term well-being of the horse in mind. It's imperative that all available, educated and informed options can be efficiently, confidently and thoroughly relayed to the owners."