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Racing oversight panel recommends safety measures after 12 horse deaths at Churchill Downs

Horse racing’s federally created oversight panel found no single cause of death among 12 horses at Churchill Downs this spring, but recommends further action and analysis to mitigate risk at the home of the Kentucky Derby, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) report also suggested improved veterinary screening and the creation of a blue-ribbon committee to study synthetic surface options throughout the sport.

The report comes two days before the start of Churchill Downs’ fall September meet and follows the June 7 suspension of racing to conduct an internal safety review. The spring meet was shifted to Ellis Park in western Kentucky.

That move came in the aftermath of seven horse deaths in the days leading up to the 149th Derby on May 6 — including two on the undercard — and five more in the weeks afterward. HISA immediately convened an emergency summit and recommended pausing the meet after consulting industry experts, veterinarians and trainers.

Among the findings in HISA’s report:

Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in July that racing would resume this fall with no changes and called the deaths “a series of unfortunate circumstances” in an earnings call with CDI investors.

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