Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, announced Friday that it was suspending racing at its facilities after the deaths of a dozen horses.
The Louisville track will be closed from June 7 until the end of the spring meet, which is scheduled to end on July 3, and the races scheduled there will be moved to another location.
“Churchill Downs has experienced an unusual number of horse injuries over the past month, resulting in 12 horse deaths,” the company said in a statement, noting that in multiple investigations into the horses’ deaths, “none factor has not been identified as a potential cause and no [discernible] a pattern was found to link the deaths.
Bill Carstangen, the track’s CEO, added that he hopes the track’s closure will allow investigators to find answers.
“What happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “Despite our best efforts to identify the cause of the recent horse injuries, and although there are no issues related to our racing surfaces or the environment at Churchill Downs, we need to take more time to conduct a top-down review of all the details and circumstances, so to be able to further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.”
The deaths cast a somber mood over the Kentucky Derby in early May, when the sixth and seventh horses to die were injured during the races. Both horses were three years old and were euthanized due to knee and ankle injuries.
“He just took a bad step there,” Jeff Hyles, one of the horse’s trainers, told The Associated Press at the time. “They could do the same thing running on the field as well as on the track.” So it’s very unfortunate. That’s what we’re all about.”
The races scheduled at Churchill Downs will now be held about 80 miles east of Louisville at Ellis Park in Lexington.