Churchill Downs adds video surveillance to horse barns

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — All horses running in the Kentucky Oaks and Derby will be under 24-hour video surveillance when they are in the barns at Churchill Downs, according to the track’s equine medical director, Dr. William Farmer.

What You Need To Know

  • Churchill Downs is adding 24-hour video surveillance of Oaks and Derby horses in their barns
  • Previously, security guards have been assigned to Derby horses
  • Close to 80 cameras will be used to monitor the horses
  • Owners and trainers will be able to view the video through phones or tablets

The surveillance was scheduled to begin Monday and remain in effect until the horses leave their stalls for the races, said Farmer.

Churchill Downs will use these monitors for video surveillance of Oaks and Derby horses. (Spectrum News 1/Erin Kelly)

Previously, security guards have been assigned to Derby horses.

“Human security has been with them, but this year, we’re also adding video security for both Derby and Oaks horses,” he said. “My intent for it is to be more for a forensics purpose and if somebody does have a positive test or some type of an issue that comes up with a horse, we can go back and review the footage and be able to try to identify if There was a violation that took place or the circumstances surrounding whatever the issue may be.”

Close to 80 different cameras will be used to monitor the horses, owners and trainers will be able to view them through their phones or tablets, according to Farmer.

As equine medical director, Farmer oversees track safety policies and is responsible for the welfare of about 1,400 horses.

Dr. William Farmer is equine medical director for Churchill Downs Incorporated. (Spectrum News 1/Erin Kelly)

“We watch races very different because I’m not rooting for any one, I’m rooting for them all,” he said.

Farmer has worked at Churchill Downs since 2019 and previously spent nearly 10 years with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

He observes all the horses to make sure they’re fit to race.

“The biggest things that we’re looking for, any abnormalities in a gait, so something that might signify to us that a horse has some type of underlying injury,” he said.

Staff with both Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission—and private veterinarians—will all have their eyes on the horses racing this week.

The equine medical center, which opened in 2020, serves as a triage facility.

“If we have a horse that needs some additional, more selective veterinary care this, is open to all of our trainers, all of our horses on the backside,” said Farmer.

Farmer said the track is always working to improve safety and he considers himself a voice for the horses.

“I don’t gain anything economically by them racing or not racing,” he said. “My whole concern is that they get to go out there, compete, competitively to the best of their natural ability.”

On race day, he will be watching to see each one makes it back safely until the last horse leaves the track at the end of the night, he said.


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