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Churchill Downs to Cease Racing as It Investigates Deaths of Horses

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” said Bill Carstanjen, the chief executive of Churchill Downs Inc. “We need to take more time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all of the details and circumstances so that we can further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.”

Lisa Lazarus, the chief executive of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, said in a statement that the authority recommended to Churchill Downs that it cease racing because the cause of the deaths hasn’t been determined and therefore it isn’t clear what changes to make.

The deaths have cast a pall over the Triple Crown season, the few weeks each spring when casual sports fans pay close attention to horse racing, tuning in to enjoy the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Some trainers were unhappy with Churchill Downs’ plans to move the meet. They also criticized other recent precautions implemented at the track.

“Horsemen question the purpose of this unprecedented step, especially without conclusive evidence that there is a problem with the racetrack at Churchill Downs,” said Rick Hiles, the president of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, in a statement. “We all want to find solutions that will improve safety for horses. However, we need to discuss allowing trainers and veterinarians to use therapeutic medications that greatly lessen the risk of breakdowns. Drastic steps, such as relocating an active race meet, should only be considered when it is certain to make a difference.”

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