Congress members call for transparency on Churchill Downs horse deaths

Sixteen members of Congress are calling for transparency from the Kentucky-based Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority as it investigates a series of horse deaths at Churchill Downs.

In a bipartisan letter addressed to HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus, the group of lawmakers requests that necropsy results from the horses that have died at Churchill Downs and a comprehensive report be made public to "exemplify your commitment to the integrity of the sport."

The letter, primarily authored by Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat, also urges careful review of the deceased horses' medical records for exploring links to preexisting conditions. And it asks HISA to name steps it is taking to prevent deaths and seeks the status of a plan to consider a holistic investigation factoring in breeding techniques, equine medicine and training practices potentially contributing to deaths.

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Since the letter was signed Thursday, another horse died at Louisville's famed track Saturday, the ninth since April 27.

The letter called the death toll an "unacceptable price to pay for entertainment" and requested an update 60 days after the Lexington-based organization's reception of the letter on the status of any investigations. Also, the legislators asked to be informed of any safety measure reviews and possible reforms.

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"While we recognize the strides made to prevent racing fatalities, the American public is understandably alarmed by the risks to animal welfare demonstrated on the world stage in the lead up to the Kentucky Derby," the letter read.


A HISA spokesperson wrote Tuesday that the organization had received the letter. HISA also said it would release the findings publicly upon completion.

Lazarus wrote in a May 12 release about the deaths at Churchill Downs that HISA would be following up.

"As we move forward from this collective low, I hope it is together, united with a renewed commitment to what matters most: the safety of our horses and our riders. We owe it to them to get this right. And we owe it to them to do it now," Lazarus said.

HISA, signed into law by former President Donald Trump, is tasked with making horse racing safer via a July 2021-enacted racetrack safety component and the newly effective Anti-Doping and Medication Control program, which began Monday. Legislators said in the letter they were encouraged by both measures going into effect.


Here are the 15 other cosigners of the letter:

  • Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.;

  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.;

  • Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla.;

  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.;

  • Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas;

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.;

  • Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr., D-N.J.;

  • Rep. Troy Carter, D-La.;

  • Rep. André Carson, D-Ind.;

  • Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo.;;

  • Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.;

  • Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.;

  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas;

  • Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md.

  • Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.

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Reach reporter Caleb Wiegandt at Follow him on Twitter at @CalebWiegandt.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Churchill Downs horse deaths: Congress urges transparency from HISA