'More work to be done' with Santa Anita fatalities back in spotlight

January 22, 2020 01:57pm

A trio of equine fatalities in as many days over the weekend at Santa Anita Park renewed calls from animal activists for the southern California racetrack to do better, and in a statement Wednesday, owner/operator The Stronach Group pledged just that.

On Friday, a 6-year-old gelding named Harliss broke down in a race over the turf. On Saturday, 5-year-old gelding Uncontainable also suffered his injury on the lawn. Sunday morning, 4-year-old gelding Tikkun Olam collided with another horse during morning training hours.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals demanded California Horse Racing Board — backed by new legislation approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom — to suspend racing at Santa Anita, where fatalities became a national news story in the spring of 2019 and led to conversations about safety in racing that persist today.

“Governor Newsom’s office is correct in acknowledging that we have made progress in reducing equine fatalities, and we too recognize that there is still more work to be done,” The Stronach Group’s statement reads. “At Santa Anita, we continue to search for additional ways to improve safety and transparency and are fully committed to achieving the highest standards of care in Thoroughbred racing.”

It goes on to say that since March of last year, The Stronach Group has “advocated for and implemented safety reforms unseen in our sport for generations.”

Debates about track surfaces, pre-existing injuries and whips have gone on, while across the country, sister track Gulfstream Park will on Saturday renew its Pegasus World Cup Invitational Series with a ban on race day medication, including Lasix.

According to The Stronach Group, Santa Anita accounts for 3,000 workers in the industry and approximately 420,000 racing and training sessions occur there annually.

“Each and every day, our priority is returning the horses who race and train at our facility to the safety of their barn,” the statement reads. “We will continue to build on the reforms in place while doing everything within our power to push for further meaningful reforms that put horse and rider safety at the forefront.”

A task force formed by the Los Angeles Country District Attorney’s office found that from July 1, 2018, through Nov. 30, 2019, 56 horses died at Santa Anita but found no sign of criminal activity related to fatalities on the grounds.

Santa Anita has totaled five fatalities since Dec. 26, two days before its current winter/spring season opened.


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