Monday, March 02, 2009

Churchill Downs Announces Enhanced Horse Safety and Welfare Policies

by Fran Jurga | 2 March 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

Kentucky's Churchill Downs Incorporated ("CDI") announced new safety and welfare rules today. These measures will be in place at the Louisville racetrack in advance of the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on Saturday, May 2, and will include unprecedented standardized third-party testing of track surfaces and comprehensive tests on all winning horses for more than 100 prohibited drugs.

The safety initiatives will be implemented at Churchill Downs when its 2009 Spring Meet opens on April 25, and will be phased in at all other racetracks owned by the Churchill Downs group (Arlington Park in Illinois; Calder Race Course in Florida; and Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in Louisiana) by the start of their respective 2010 race meets.

In development for nearly a year, the “Safety from Start to Finish” initiative is designed to incorporate new health and wellness measures, as well as long-standing safety policies and standards, under a single formalized initiative to serve as a blueprint for all CDI facilities.

The key safety initiatives that will be in place at Churchill Downs prior to Kentucky Derby 135 are as follows; the wording is as presented by Churchill Downs' official announcement:

1. Independent, standardized third-party testing and monitoring of track surfaces;
2. “Supertesting” of all winning horses for more than 100 performance-enhancing drugs;
3. Age restrictions requiring Thoroughbreds to be at least 24 calendar months of age before becoming eligible to race;
4. The freezing and storage of equine blood and urine samples to allow for retrospective testing;
5. The banning of steroids;
6. Limits on the number of horses allowed to compete in certain races;
7. The prohibition of “milkshaking”, which results in excessive levels of total carbon dioxide in Thoroughbred racehorses;
8. Prohibiting the transport of horses from CDI facilities for slaughter;
9. The banning of unsafe horseshoes, including front shoe toe grabs longer than two millimeters;
10. The use of low-impact riding whips with limited usage rules;
11. The presence of on-site medical personnel, equipment, and state-of-the-art equine ambulances;
12. Immediate online access to jockey medical histories for emergency medical personnel;
13. $1 million in catastrophic injury insurance coverage for jockeys;
14. Mandatory and uniform reporting of equine injuries to the Equine Injury Database System, thereby assisting in the compilation of statistics and trends to improve safety conditions around the country;
15. A professionally designed and installed safety rail on the inside of the dirt course;
16. Mandatory usage by all jockeys, exercise riders and other on-track personnel of safety vests and safety helmets that meet internationally acknowledged quality standards;
17. 3/8-inch foam padding on all parts of the starting gates;
18. Significant financial support for equine retirement programs;
19. Inspection of all horses by regulatory veterinarians prior to and following all races;
20. Review of security procedures around barns and other racetrack backstretch areas;
21. Continued maintenance of protocols for the treatment of horses that have been injured during racing or training, to ensure the most humane treatment possible; and
22. Mandatory, independent, and complete necropsies of any horse that dies as a result of an injury sustained while racing or training at Churchill Downs.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask.

Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page).

To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found.

Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to