Reports: 22nd Santa Anita Park fatality leaves officials 'perplexed'

March 14, 2019 12:31pm
A crew with Los Angeles news station FOX 11, on hand Thursday morning at Santa Anita Park intending to tell the story of the track's increased safety measures in the wake of 21 equine fatalities since the meet began Dec. 26, instead witnessed the 22nd.

"We're perplexed by what has happened and devastated," Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of Santa Anita owner The Stronach Group, told FOX 11.

"The track, we have complete confidence in the track, with the greatest track crew in America, and it's just a devastating time for all of us."

The Daily Racing Form's Brad Free reported that Princess Lili B, a David Bernstein-trained 3-year-old filly, broke her front legs at the end of a workout. A homebred, Princess Lili B made two career starts in claiming company, with Thursday's four-furlong breeze her second since racing most recently on Feb. 18.

Training continued, per both reports, and FOX 11 indicated that despite the fatality, racing is scheduled to resume March 22, a week from Friday.
Santa Anita originally re-opened its one-mile main track on Monday for jogs and gallops after approval from Dennis Moore, the former track superintendent retained as a consultant throughout a crisis that made national news and led the Arcadia, Calif., track to temporarily halt both training and racing.

Santa Anita has also made available its inner training track for works, while some horsemen elected to move horses to nearby Los Alamitos to remain on schedule for upcoming stakes engagements, including the top 3-year-old duo of Game Winner and Improbable who have since shipped to Arkansas' Oaklawn Park for Saturday's Rebel Stakes (G2).

“The main track is good," Moore said Monday of Santa Anita. "All of the test data support what we experienced this morning and that is, it’s where it should be.” 

What has caused the rash of breakdowns -- speculation has pointed to an unseasonably wet winter that could disrupt the surface's integrity -- remains unknown.

Santa Anita last week announced that upon the track re-opening, safety measures, such as trainers having to apply to work a horse, would go in place. Periods after each renovation break now open the track exclusively to workers, while a full-time position, the director of equine welfare, will be held by a veterinarian and lead a "Rapid Response" team to investigate causes of any equine injuries.

“We’re looking forward to returning to normal, but it will be a new normal,” Ritvo said in a news release. “The safety of our equine and human athletes remains our highest priority.  We need to work together and continue to create not only our own internal audits, but an open and honest dialogue with all of the stakeholders and evaluate best practices at other racetracks around the world.” 


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