Safety in horse racing was topic number one at Churchill Downs stockholders meeting - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Safety in horse racing was topic number one at Churchill Downs stockholders meeting

The horse racing industry is taking steps to prevent tragedies like the one that happened at this year's Kentucky Derby.

The spring meet continues at the Downs.  But safety in the thoroughbred industry was a topic at Churchill Downs' annual stockholders meeting, and also in Washington.

Thoroughbred racing has had some bad days lately -- the breakdown of Derby winner Barbaro several years ago in the Preakness, and filly Eight Belles' breakdown just after a second place finish in this year's Kentucky Derby.

Bob Evans, CEO of Churchill Downs, Inc., said Thursday, "The records aren't perfect, but we believe this is the only time in the 134-year history of the Kentucky Derby that any horse has ever suffered a fatal accident, but frankly even one time is one time too many."

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals staged a half-dozen pickets outside the stockholders' meeting on Thursday.

Melissa Karpel of PETA says, "We're asking for dirt tracks to be replaced with synthetic or softer grass tracks.  We're asking for a ban on all whipping, we're asking for a ban on all drugs, and we're asking for horses not to be raced before they are three years old."

Inside, a PETA representative cornered Churchill Downs CEO Bob Evans.  Lindsay Ragt of PETA said afterwards,  "I'm sure we'd be willing to accomodate whatever needs to be done.  He could certainly visit our office in Norfork Virginia, or we could perhaps send representatives to Louisville."

Evans assures stockholders that the industry is taking steps to make horse racing safer.  It's calling for a ban on anabolic steroids, banning certain horseshoes, and restrictions on jockeys using the whip.

The events in Louisville come on a day of Congressional hearings into the safety of thoroughbred racing.

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