Churchill Downs Incorporated has announced that its flagship venue, Churchill Downs Racetrack, will resume live racing for the upcoming meet, starting September 14th, 2023.

The meeting gets an all-clear from dstate regulators, following a temporary suspension after the Kentucky Derby festival saw 12 horses die, following the stable area reopening for training on March 30th. The release and investigation found no single factor responsible for the equine fatalities but Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carjstanjen emphasized the importance of an assessment:

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable. We need to take more time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all of the details and circumstances so that we can further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.”

What will Churchill Downs change?

Following the period of review, the Churchill Downs Racetrack has made a number of changes to ‘ensure the safety and well-being of equine and human athletes’. The key points are as follows:

  • Infrastructure Upgrades: Analysis by multiple leading industry experts found no issues with the racing surfaces, however, to further maximize surface oversight and consistency, the Racetrack has invested in additional new surface maintenance equipment and committed to doubling the frequency of surface testing.
  • Increased Veterinary Oversight: Additional resources will be added to CDI’s highly qualified veterinary team to provide additional monitoring and specialized care for horses and assist in pre-race inspections and entry screening.
  • Collaboration with Industry Experts: Work will continue with HISA and other industry experts to predict at-risk horses using up-to-date data and advanced analytic techniques.
  • Establish Safety Management Committee: A new safety committee will be established consisting of horsemen designees, racetrack employees and veterinarians to candidly discuss concerns and observations to constantly provide real time feedback on areas of improvement.

“We are excited to resume live racing again at Churchill Downs,” said Bill Carstanjen, CEO of CDI. “Our commitment to safety remains paramount as we enter this September meet and our participants, fans and the public can be assured that we will continue to investigate, evaluate and improve upon every policy and protocol.”

The Churchill Downs is home to The Kentucky Derby, one of horse racing’s most well-known and world-renowned races. 12 equine deaths was particularly alarming given racing is flat and there are no jumps; a discipline typically associated with potentially higher equine fatality due to the danger of falling when clearing obstacles.

What does the Kentucky sports betting landscape look like?

Kentucky sports betting has been signed into law, but it has not yet launched. Churchill Downs, Inc, is one of the properties that will be permitted to run a sportsbook on a retail basis. The anticipated go-ahead date remains September 7th, 2023 with online Kentucky sports betting to follow a few weeks late for the start of the NFL season.

HB 551 was the bill passed through the Senate 25 votes to 12, with Governor Beshear signing the bill into law within a day.

The legislation allows Kentucky’s nine horse racing tracks/racinos sports betting licenses, who can then have up to three online partners/skins per track. The online tax rate is set to sit at 14.25%, with a lower rate of 9.75% for retail operators.