EXCLUSIVE: Santa Anita says No Plans to Potentially Move Some Upcoming Horse Races from Track

April 18, 2019 - 2:10 pm

UPDATE: Santa Anita says there are no plans to potentially move some upcoming horse races from its track. 

A meeting took place  Thursday morning in Arcadia with the California Horse Racing Board to go over the recent horse deaths at Santa Anita. Since late December, 23 horsed have suffered fatal injuries at the track.

This morning's agenda included possible action on relocating future race dates at Santa Anita. 

Should a decision on the future of horse racing in California be decided with a ballot proposition?  That’s what many activists are demanding. 

Members of California Horse Racing Board told animal rights activists their claims that retired race horses are slaughtered are wrong at the meeting.

“I want you to give me the proof,” says board member Madeline Auerbach at the meeting in a Craig Fiegener tweet.

She declares slaughter of retired horses not legal in horse racing in California.

Anti-horse racing advocates are also expected to be in attendance to voice their demands for a state ballot measure to abolish the sport.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced Tuesday the launch of a task force to investigate the 23 horse deaths at Santa Anita Racetrack

“I have formed a task force of experienced deputy district attorneys and sworn peace officers with varied expertise within my office who will thoroughly investigate and evaluate the evidence to determine whether unlawful conduct or conditions affected the welfare and safety of horses at Santa Anita Park,” Lacey said.

Head of the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park, announces "zero tolerance for race day medication" and says riding crops "should only be used as a corrective safety measure," after sources confirm to KNX 1070 that another horse has died at the park -- making it the 22nd horse death at the track since December 26.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calls it a "watershed moment for racing" and thanks Santa Anita "for standing up to all the trainers, veterinarians, and owners who have used any means - from the whip to the hypodermic syringe - to force injured or unfit horses to run."

PETA is calling for a criminal investigation into the horse deaths.

The organization wants to know if animal cruelty has played a role in any of the deaths and has been demanding that Lacey get the police involved.

A Santa Anita spokesman said in a statement that racetrack officials are"very, very concerned" about the rash of deaths and "welcome any responsible outside review of practices" at the facility.

"We're just perplexed by what has happened, and devastated," Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer for 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," Ritvo said.

The track recently announced a set of new protocols, which are as follows:

-- The creation of an equine-welfare position.

-- Trainers who want to put a horse through timed, high-speed training exercises will be required to ask for permission 24 hours in advance. Officials said the move will help track veterinarians identify "at-risk" horses by evaluating past performance, workout data and physical inspections.

-- The track has hired additional veterinarians "to observe all horses entering and exiting the tracks each morning during training hours."

-- The track is also instituting a "House Rule" requiring "complete transparency with regard to veterinary records," requiring that the records follow the horse through changes in trainers or owners.

-- Santa Anita also created the position of Director of Equine Welfare, which will be filled by an accredited veterinarian. The position will oversee "all aspects of equine well-being and will lead a Rapid Response team for injuries." That team will investigate all factors contributing to the injury and share its findings with the public, track officials said.

Between December and February of the previous year, 10 horses died at Santa Anita, compared with eight in 2016-17 and 14 in 2015-16.

The track averaged about 50 deaths per year from 2008-18, according to data from the California Horse Racing Board.

The unusually large amount of rain that has fallen over the Southland this winter has been mentioned as a possible factor in explaining the surge in deaths.

-KNX 1070 and CNS