Horse racing's federal oversight body is holding an emergency meeting Tuesday in Kentucky after two more horses died over the weekend, pushing the total to 12 fatalities in the past five weeks at Churchill Downs — home of the Kentucky Derby.
The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) said Monday that it will convene veterinary officials to "thoroughly review" the deaths in hopes of better understanding what caused them.
"HISA's highest priority is the safety and wellbeing of the horses and riders competing under its jurisdiction," the national authority said in a statement. "We remain deeply concerned by the unusually high number of equine fatalities at Churchill Downs over the last several weeks. We continue to seek answers, and we are working diligently with Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission (KHRC) to mitigate any additional risk."
HISA said it is also sending renowned track superintendent Dennis Moore to provide a second independent analysis of each fatality. CEO Lisa Lazarus and Racetrack Safety Director Ann McGovern will review the results of Moore's analysis and consider whether any follow-up actions are needed.
Seven horses died from injuries at Churchill Downs in the days leading up to the 149th Kentucky Derby earlier this month. One trainer was suspended after two of his horses had died.
"Given the unexplained sudden deaths, we have reasonable concerns about the condition of his horses, and decided to suspend him indefinitely until details are analyzed and understood," said Bill Mudd, president of Churchill Downs Inc. "The safety of our equine and human athletes and integrity of our sport is our highest priority. We feel these measures are our duty and responsibility."
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