Keeneland and Churchill Downs Announce Following Same Racing Safety Reforms as California Tracks

Keeneland and Churchill Downs on Feb. 27 announced reforms in racing and training policies to strengthen safety protocols at both race tracks by mandating veterinary inspections prior to workouts and race entry, and enhanced reporting and transparency requirements for trainers and attending veterinarians involved with participating horses. 

Also planned this year is the race-day banned use of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide—commonly known as Lasix—in all 2-year-old races at the Kentucky tracks after the medication phaseout was cleared with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission last year.

The safety changes will become effective with the opening of the stable areas at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. According to a joint release from the two tracks, trainers and attending veterinarians must agree to the following conditions in order to participate at either track:

  • A trainer is not permitted to enter a horse in any race unless the horse has been found fit to race by the attending veterinarian during the three days immediately prior to entry, and 
  • A trainer is not permitted to work a horse unless the horse has been found fit to work by the attending veterinarian during the five days immediately before the work.

These inspections mirror safety and veterinary protocols that were established in California after a rash of fatalities at Santa Anita Park last winter and spring. 

“Anything that proves a safer environment for these athletes and gives the public a better perception of this wonderful sport is a bonus in my book,” trainer Mike Maker said in reaction to Thursday’s announcement. “If it saves one horse from injury, it should be deemed a success.”

Keeneland and Churchill Downs will ban the race-day use Lasix in all 2-year-old races under the International Medication Protocol authority granted in 810 KAR 8:050 of the Kentucky Administrative Regulations. This ban begins with the 2020 spring meet that opens April 2 at Keeneland, which is followed by the 2020 spring meet at Churchill Downs starting April 25.

The reforms also apply to horses stabled at The Thoroughbred Center near Lexington and the Churchill Downs Training Center near Louisville.  

Kentucky’s Thoroughbred racetracks supported sweeping medication reforms, including the Lasix ban, adopted by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in late 2019. Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason and Churchill Downs Racetrack president Kevin Flanery said in a joint statement: “These meaningful reforms further advance our commitment to create the safest possible environment for racing and training. Racetracks, horsemen and the veterinary community share a responsibility for the welfare of our human and equine athletes and to promote the sport for generations of fans to come.”

Trainers and attending veterinarians are obligated to inform the equine medical director at the appropriate racetrack and the KHRC of any changes in a horse’s fitness after an examination has been conducted. 

Additionally, all horses at Keeneland and Churchill Downs will be subject to veterinary inspections by the tracks’ respective equine medical directors and to veterinary monitoring.

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