June 5, 2023 3 min read


Churchill Downs Suspends Racing Operations and Relocates Spring Meet

The Churchill Downs track has witnessed an unusually high number of equine deaths, with a total of 12 fatalities occurring within the past month

The renowned racetrack and home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, has made the difficult decision to suspend racing operations following a distressing series of horse fatalities

Churchill Downs Takes Precautionary Measures Following Horse Fatalities

In response to the tragic incidents, Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) announced on June 2 that it would be suspending racing operations at Churchill Downs Racetrack beginning June 7, 2023, and relocating the remaining Spring Meet to Ellis Park Racing & Gaming in Henderson, Kentucky, which CDI acquired in September 2022.

The decision to suspend operations comes after a thorough internal review and concurrent investigations conducted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA). Despite extensive investigations, no single factor has been identified as the potential cause for the horse fatalities, and no discernible pattern has been detected. 

Experts who conducted diagnostics testing on the racetrack found no concerns and concluded that the track’s surface was consistent with previous measurements. However, as a precautionary measure and in alignment with HISA’s recommendation, CDI decided to relocate the meet to conduct a comprehensive review of safety protocols and integrity measures in collaboration with experts from across the nation.

Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI, stated: “What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable. 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.”

Carstanjen further expressed deep concern over the horse injuries and emphasized the commitment to ensuring the highest standard of safety in racing.

Mixed Reactions to Churchill Downs’ Decision to Relocate Spring Meet to Ellis Park

The relocation of the meet to Ellis Park was chosen to minimize disruption to the Thoroughbred industry in Kentucky. Ellis Park, known for its summer race meet, will now host the remainder of the Spring Meet starting on June 10. The safety initiatives introduced by Churchill Downs earlier this week will remain in effect for the duration of the meet at Ellis Park.

While the decision to relocate the meet received support from some, including the Kentucky horsemen, there were voices of skepticism. Rick Hiles, the president of Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, questioned the move, particularly since there is no conclusive evidence that the surface at Churchill Downs is the cause of the fatalities. Hiles stressed the importance of finding solutions that improve safety for horses while also considering the use of therapeutic medications to reduce the risk of injuries.

At the same time, Churchill Downs announced at the beginning of May that it is expecting a significant increase in adjusted EBITDA for Kentucky Derby Week. The race saw impressive metrics, with the Kentucky Derby Day program reaching the highest recorded number at $288.7 million and total program earnings of $412 million for the week.


Silvia has dabbled in all sorts of writing – from content writing for social media to movie scripts. She has a Bachelor's in Screenwriting and experience in marketing and producing documentary films. With her background as a customer support agent within the gambling industry, she brings valuable insight to the Gambling News writers’ team.

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