KNX On The Street: After Multiple Deaths, Should Horse Racing at Santa Anita End?

June 14, 2019 - 10:25 am

On the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom's call for horses to be medically cleared before they are allowed to race, the owners of Santa Anita racetrack say a five-member horse safety review team will be brought in for the final six days of racing at the track. The team will have the power to scratch horses from races if they "do not appear fit to run." A state official calls the move "unprecedented in American horse racing."

KNX 'On the Street' digital reporter asked Angelenos what they thought about horse racing, after the death of 29 horses at the facility, and most of them getting injured while racing.

Newsom says he's "troubled" by the deaths and says California must show the racing world that safety comes first.

Wednesday, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey weighed in, issuing a letter to state lawmakers in support of legislation that would give the California Horse Racing Board the authority to suspend horse racing for safety purposes.

Senate Bill 469 would authorize the board to immediately suspend a horse racing meet when necessary to protect the health and safety of horses and riders. CHRB does not now have that authority.

“California’s horse racing laws do not currently provide sufficient protection to horses and riders,” District Attorney Lacey said in a statement.“I fully support this legislation that gives the CHRD the legal authority to intervene to shut down horse racing immediately when track conditions are deemed dangerous.”

The District Attorney commended state Senators Bill Dodd and Susan Rubio and Assemblymembers Ed Chau and Adam Gray for their leadership on this issue.

District Attorney Lacey formed a task force in April to investigate horse deaths at Santa Anita racetrack. The task force is comprised of experienced deputy district attorneys and sworn peace officers from multiple disciplines, including animal cruelty and consumer protection, to evaluate the evidence and determine whether unlawful conduct or conditions affected the welfare and safety of horses at Santa Anita race track. The investigation is ongoing.

Earlier this week, the second horse in two days and 29th overall died at Santa Anita, where management has chosen to continue racing for the rest of the current meet.

Truffalino collapsed in the final stages of the third race on turf Sunday. A track spokesman says the 3-year-old filly died of a heart attack.

She was trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella and was ridden by Joe Talamo. Truffalino had one win in six career starts and earnings of $53,602, according to Equibase.

A day earlier, Formal Dude pulled up in the 10th race and was vanned off the track after breaking down nearing the finish line. Tiago Pereira was aboard the favorite trained by Phil D'Amato. The 4-year-old gelding was winless in six career starts and had earnings of $15,127, according to Equibase. Formal Dude was euthanized.

The California Horse Racing Board has recommended that the track suspend the remaining days of its meet, which is set to end June 23. However, Santa Anita management has chosen to continue racing.

The racing board doesn't have the authority to suspend a race meet or remove race dates from a current meet without the approval of the track operator or without holding a public meeting that requires 10 days' notice.

-AP contributed to this