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Racehorses are dying during competitions. What can be done?

The home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, is suspending races through the end of the season in order to investigate a spate of equine fatalities.
The home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, is suspending races through the end of the season in order to investigate a spate of equine fatalities.

In the span of six weeks during this year’s spring season, twelve racehorses died at Churchill Downs racetrack in Kentucky, the home of the Kentucky Derby.

The abnormally high number of fatalities is drawing renewed, mainstream attention to equine safety, a long-debated, complex, and controversial topic within the sport.

In response to the deaths, Churchill Downs suspended races for the remainder of the spring season. Scheduled events will take place at another Kentucky racetrack.

The circumstances are reminiscent of a rash of 3o horse deaths during a six-month period at Santa Anita Park in California in 2019.

In the aftermath, the federal government passed the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), which created nationwide safety, anti-doping, and medication standards for the sport.

Why do horses die at racetracks, what’s being done to keep them safe, and what does it all mean for the future of the sport?

Copyright 2023 WAMU 88.5

Avery Jessa Chapnick
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