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Death of 4 Fair Grounds horses leads to possible reforms, leaving some horse owners weary

Monday, Executive Director of Racing Mike Ziegler told the Louisiana Racing Commission, Churchill Downs supports a series of reforms

NEW ORLEANS — Churchill Downs officials are now speaking on the record about four thoroughbred racehorses that recently died in a span of 6 race days at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Executive Director of Racing Mike Ziegler said LSU has begun performing tests to determine what killed the animals.

"Fatalities on the race track are multi-factorial," Ziegler said. "It has nothing to do with one specific problem. It could be anything from the surface to pre-existing conditions to just freak accidents."

Monday, Ziegler told the Louisiana Racing Commission, Churchill supports a series of medical, operational and organizational reforms.

The reforms include increasing the withdrawal times for certain anti-inflammatory drugs.

Also on the list, phasing out the race-day use of the anti-bleeding medication Lasix beginning with two-year-old horses, next year.

"I think it's the responsibility of everyone in this industry to ensure things get safer," Ziegler said. "That's what we're working on."

RELATED: Questions arise after four horses killed at New Orleans Fair Grounds in 10 days

The Louisiana Racing Commission is expected to vote on Churchill Downs' recommendations at a later date. Commissioners we spoke with, called the recommendations a good start.

"I do believe we have to move fast, and we have to move forward," Commissioner Donald Cravins said. "We have to implement those provisions as soon as we can."

"We want to observe it very carefully and make sure we're doing what needs to be done," Commissioner Bob Wright said.

Horse owners said the state doesn't need to eliminate Lasix.

"The intentions of Churchill are fantastic. However, the decisions being made are based upon questionable science," Finn McCool's Racing Stable GM Harry Burns said.

"If they make the policy across the United States, you're going to have people probably getting out of the business," Orleans Clerk of Court and horse owner Arthur Morrell said. "In Louisiana, in the south, dealing with Lasix, because of the humidity Lasix is required."

Kentucky, California and New York have already adopted similar horse race reforms. 

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