Santa Anita suspends racing after 21st horse fatality since Dec. 26 | Other Sports
Santa Anita Park on Tuesday suspended racing at least through the weekend only hours after yet another horse fatality, the 21st such death at the famed L.A.-area race track since Dec. 26.
“In whole, we feel confident in the track and we’re just being very proactive,” said Tim Ritvo, COO of the group that owns and operates the Arcadia, California, track (via The Los Angeles Times). “We want to do all the testing that needs to be done. When we believe we’re in good shape, we’ll start to train over it again.”
The closure forces the postponement of two of Santa Anita’s biggest annual events scheduled for Saturday: the San Felipe Handicap, a major Kentucky Derby prep race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds, and the Santa Anita Handicap, a lucrative race for older horses.
Among the nearly two dozen horse fatalities in some 10 weeks was 2017 Breeders’ Cup winner Battle of Midway, who died while training Saturday. On Tuesday, a 4-year-old filly was euthanized after injuring her right front leg, leading to the suspension.
The 21 fatalities — results of training or racing on both the main dirt track and the turf track too — are almost double all of 2018, which was considered one of the safest in almost a quarter-century.
So what’s going on?
Possible explanations are the racing surface, though no irregularities were found in testing last week; horses being legally medicated but to the point pain from potential injuries is masked until it’s too late; and thoroughbreds potentially being victims of breeding for speed at the expense of durability or long-term health.
“There are many different factors that can contribute to this,” safety and racing surface expert Mick Peterson said. “Surfaces and pre-race [veterinary] exams are two things that affect every horse, and then there is weather. We have to look at all of them and maybe we can figure a global risk factor.”
While Santa Anita is closed, Los Alamitos Race Track, some 30 miles south in Cypress, has offered its course for training.
According to The Times, the rash of horse fatalities has brought protesters to Santa Anita, “not an uncommon sight at race tracks even in good times,” and PETA has called on California Gov. Gavin Newsom to close the track.