10/14/2008 12:00AM

Churchill bans toe grabs at four tracks


Churchill Downs Inc. has issued a house rule banning the use of certain toe-grab horseshoes at its four racetracks effective immediately, the company announced Tuesday.

A ban in racing on front horseshoes with toe grabs higher than 2 millimeters has been issued this year by multiple national racing organizations, citing research that shows that the horseshoes are statistically correlated with a higher rate of fatal breakdowns. A number of racing jurisdictions have already adopted rules banning the shoes, including Louisiana and Kentucky, two states in which Churchill's four racetracks are located.

Churchill owns Churchill Downs in Kentucky, Arlington Park in Illinois, Calder Race Course in Florida, and Fair Grounds Racecourse in Louisiana. In a release, Churchill said the policy would apply to both racing and training, on dirt and turf, and would include any front horseshoe with a grab higher than 2 millimeters, including "bends, jar calks, stickers, and any other traction device."

The policy will also limit grabs on any hind shoe to a quarter-inch in dirt racing. No hind shoes with traction devices would be allowed on the turf.

Churchill made its announcement one day prior to a press conference by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association in which the organization is expected to issue recommendations on safety standards for its member tracks. Churchill is a member of the NTRA.

In Kentucky, both Turfway Park and Keeneland Racecourse have banned toe grabs since Sept. 1 under a house rule. The rule banning toe grabs in the state is expected to go into force later this year after approval by the legislature.