Reports: Santa Anita Park to delay re-opening past March 22

Santa Anita Park officials have decided against re-opening Friday, March 22, as scheduled, according to multiple reports Friday evening, primarily given a disagreement over track operator The Stronach Group's new policy to ban the anti-bleeding medication Lasix.

Alan Balch, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, told the Thoroughbred Daily News that in a meeting Friday with The Stronach Group officials, "We had a lengthy, serious and frank exchange of views on Lasix, because we believe very strongly that the administration of Lasix is in the interest of the welfare of the horse."

Officials with other entities, including the California Horse Racing Board, were present, per The TDN.

Ray Paulick, publisher of the Paulick Report, also confirmed the news Friday evening.

Those statements echo what a number of prominent Santa Anita-based trainers told Horse Racing Nation on Thursday in the hours following what Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of The Stronach Group, called a "watershed moment."

Without consent of trainers -- that, per Hall of Fame conditioner Jerry Hollendorfer -- The Stronach Group announced sweeping changes including the Lasix ban, along with further safety measures including increased out of competition testing, transparency regarding vet records and reduced use of whips.

The announcement followed a 22nd death by a horse due to injuries sustained in racing or training at Santa Anita since the current meet began Dec. 26. New rules were also to apply at Golden Gate Fields, The Stronach Group's Northern California facility, though no timeline was given as to when they would go into effect.

According to The Thoroughbred Daily News' report, there's no new date available as to when Santa Anita could re-open. Its last race date was Sunday, March 3. Golden Gate Fields raced Thursday and Friday, with entries already in through the weekend.

Also per The TDN report, Balch said "virtually all" other portions of The Stronach Group's new policies were agreeable from trainers, which many prominent conditioners, including current leading trainer Doug O'Neill, has expressed Thursday to HRN.

“This is very much in line with most of the racing jurisdictions around the world,” said Simon Callaghan, a native of England who began his training career overseas. “I think so long as everyone’s on a level playing field and it’s to the benefit of the industry and the horses, I’m comfortable with it.”

Callaghan said the new measures are “something we need to embrace rather than pull against,” but he too
 mentioned a familiar issue.

“I don’t necessarily agree that not giving Lasix to horses is the right thing,” Callaghan said. “I think some of the other changes are fine. I think Lasix alone isn’t necessarily the reason for some of these horses getting hurt.”

Trainer John Sadler, the former trainer of retired champion Accelerate, among many other notable horses, provided perhaps the most powerful piece of feedback on the prospective Lasix ban.

“I think that’s probably a very big mistake,” Sadler said, “because the first time they have two or three horses tip over in the stretch bleeding out the nostril, how’s that going to look?”

RELATED: More trainer reaction to new Santa Anita rules

 

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