NEW ORLEANS — The corporate owner of a New Orleans horse racing track appeared before Louisiana’s Racing Commission on Monday to address a surge in horse deaths there.
Mike Ziegler, executive director of racing for Kentucky-based Churchill Downs Inc., presented a list of potential reforms for the commission to consider, including restrictions on certain equine drugs that have been linked by some to premature horse deaths at the Fair Grounds Race Course, The Times-Picayune/The News Orleans Advocate reported.
Nine racehorses have died at the course since the start of the racing season in November, said Charles Gardiner III, the state commission’s executive director. Ziegler told the commission that Fair Grounds had since lost its industry accreditation, the newspaper said.
The commission will take a “hard look” at the proposed changes, Gardiner said. The body is set to vote on them at a later date.
Ziegler and others at the meeting also emphasized that the drugs weren’t responsible for all of the fatalities.
Ziegler’s comments to the commission come as a U.S. House committee is set to take up the Horseracing Integrity Act this week, news outlets report ed. The reform bill would set national standards for racing medications and establish an independent body controlled by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to provide oversight of the law. The industry remains largely self-regulated, a source of public criticism.
“The court of public opinion has convicted us and we must make significant changes to change their minds,” Ziegler said at the meeting.
An equine medical director for Churchill Downs is reviewing the spate of recent racehorse deaths.
NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.
Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.
“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”
Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.
“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”
Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.
Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.
Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.
U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”
Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.
The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.
Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.
It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”
Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.