U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has joined the California Horse Racing Board in calling for Santa Anita to immediately suspend the remainder of its meet after the deaths of two more horses last weekend.
A total of 29 horses have now died since the track opened for the season in December. The current meet is scheduled to end June 23.
The California Democrat said Monday that “something is seriously wrong,” whether it’s the track surface or problems involving training or medication. She said no one seems to know, yet training and racing continues.
“How many more horses need to die before they act?” she asked, referring to management at the Arcadia racetrack.
Santa Anita has enacted a series of reforms aimed at improving safety but despite its efforts the deaths have continued except during one six-week stretch in which no horses died.
“After extensive consultation among all partners, Santa Anita Park will stay open through the end of its meet to see these reforms through,” said a statement attributed to track owner The Stronach Group, the Thoroughbred Owners of California and California Thoroughbred Trainers.
The groups say since reforms have been enacted, catastrophic injuries at the track have decreased by 50% in racing and by over 84% in training.
“To be clear, there are no acceptable losses and every day we work toward ending all serious injuries,” the groups said. “But the reality is that our improvements and changes have been effective.”
The groups say a detailed and serious epidemiological investigation of all track accidents is underway.
The state racing board has recommended that the track suspend the rest of the meet. However, Santa Anita management has chosen to continue racing.
The CHRB 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.
The racing board recommended that Santa Anita suspend racing but allow horses to continue training, believing it would provide the industry extra time to fully implement announced safety initiatives.
The California State Senate has passed Senate Bill 469 that would authorize the racing board to suspend a track’s license in order to protect the health and safety of horses and riders. Feinstein urged the state Assembly to pass the bill as soon as possible.