Churchill Downs executive addresses surge in horse deaths

Sports

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — 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 coursesince 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.

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