Feinstein: ‘This isn’t an isolated year for Santa Anita'

June 11, 2019 09:46am

For a third time, the California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has called for suspension of racing “immediately” at Santa Anita Park, where six horses have died as a result of racing and training in the last 23 days, bringing the season total to 29.

But Feinstein didn’t limit her scrutiny to the current meet.

“This isn’t an isolated year for Santa Anita,” she said in a statement. “During the ’17-’18 season, 44 horses died; during the ‘16-‘17 season 64 horses died; and during the ’15-’16 season, 62 horses died.

“That’s 199 dead horses at one track in four racing seasons. Something is seriously wrong – whether it’s the track itself or problems with training or medication. No one seems to know, yet training and racing continues.

“I hail passage in the California State Senate of SB 469, the bill to authorize CHRB to suspend a race track’s license in order to protect health and safety of horses and riders. I urge the Assembly to pass the bill as soon as possible so more horses don’t die.”

A revised notice of the California Horse Racing Board meeting issued Monday for its June 20 session did not mention any discussion to suspend racing at Santa Anita Park, where the season continues through June 23.

Over last weekend, however, the CHRB did request Santa Anita to end its meet early; the track declined. Feinstein mentioned that move, saying the board “now agrees that racing should be halted for the remainder of this season. How many more horses need to die before they act?”

The upcoming CHRB meeting will be held at the Alameda County Fairgrounds at a satellite wagering facility. Previous recent meetings were at Santa Anita.

In another change, the public comment period that has drawn a number of animal rights activists to the microphone will shift to the end of the meeting following 21 action items. Public comment had opened past meetings.

A separate statement Sunday night from “stakeholders” at Santa Anita — track operator The Stronach Group, the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers — said the track will remain open to see through sweeping reforms ordered back in March, when a spate of fatalities brought racing to a halt.

With new safety protocols in place, the statement said, “catastrophic injuries have dropped considerably compared to earlier this meet, decreasing by 50 percent in racing and by more than 84 percent in training. To be clear, there are no acceptable losses, and every day we work toward ending all serious injuries. But the reality is that our improvements and changes have been effective.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has in recent weeks announced his support for the bill that would grant the CHRB power to suspend racing, saying that “we should have the authority to suspend licenses when animal or human welfare is at risk.”

Six racing days remain, with the track open this Friday though Sunday and June 21-23.

“We need to take a long pause and do a thorough review of Santa Anita: the track, the practices employed there, what medicines are used, how horses are trained,” Feinstein said. “We need to get to the bottom of what’s going on and why so many horses are dying.

“With only two weeks left in the racing season, there’s no reason to wait for more dead horses. Terminate racing at Santa Anita and do it now.”


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