After Latest Fatality, California Horse Racing Board to Mull ‘Options’ to Consider Moving Santa Anita Dates

Posted on: April 3, 2019, 03:42h. 

Last updated on: April 3, 2019, 06:33h.

The California Horse Racing Board on Tuesday called a special meeting for April 12 to discuss the possible reallocation of race dates granted to Santa Anita Park.

After another horse died at Santa Anita Park on Sunday, bring the total to 23 since December, track officials decided to close the hillside chute (shown above) for this weekend’s races. The California Horse Racing Board will hold a special meeting to discuss whether to move dates away from the track. (Image: Santa Anita Park)

The move came just two days after the latest death at the acclaimed track, which reopened last week after a three-week suspension of racing. Since the current meet started in late December, 23 horses have died as a result of injuries suffered during either racing or training.

Mike Marten, the board’s public information officer, said the topic had nothing to do with giving the track extra dates.

The purpose of that item is for everyone to discuss options,” Marten told on Wednesday. “This isn’t the board pushing one option. It’s for everyone on the board to discuss options.”

The meeting will take place at the track.

Tim Ritvo, TSG’s chief operating officer, told BloodHorse on Wednesday that the track did not request the meeting. He also denied rumors track officials may seek to move races to another track.

After track officials closed the track nearly a month ago, they brought in experts to investigate the racing surface. Over the winter, the track endured a combination of substantial rainfall and unusually cold weather.

Track officials also started a campaign to push for more stringent guidelines regarding the use of medications and the riding crop to bolster the horses’ safety.

Senator Calls for Suspension

The board’s decision to call the special meeting came on the same day U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) wrote a letter to CHRB Chairman Chuck Winner. In the letter, she called for racing to stop until the causes of the deaths have been determined.

“The death of a single horse is a tragedy, but as a lifelong lover of horses, I’m appalled that almost two dozen horses have died in just four months,” Feinstein wrote.

Feinstein’s letter came one day after a Humane Society of the United States representative told the track should halt activity until the necropsies were finished and released to the public.

The senator also asked Winner how the board is investigating the matter and provide her with an update. She also sought Winner’s insights on the Horseracing Integrity Act. The bill, filed last month, would nationalize policies on drug use and align them with international standards.

Marten said he did not know if the board received Feinstein’s letter before deciding to call the special meeting.

Turf Chute Closed for Now

Also on Wednesday, Ritvo told the Daily Racing Form officials moves races off the hillside turf course for this weekend. Arms Runner, a 5-year-old gelding, died Sunday after sustaining an injury on the course in a stakes race.

The course starts with a downhill turf chute. However, horses must run briefly on the dirt before moving to the main turf course. Arms Runner fell on the dirt stretch.

Racing will resume on Thursday at the Arcadia track. Saturday serves as one of the track’s biggest days of the year with seven stakes races scheduled. That includes the Santa Anita Derby, a key Kentucky Derby prep. Entrants include Game Winner, the current futures favorite for the Run for the Roses.

Santa Anita’s biggest days will take place in November when it holds the two days of Breeders’ Cup championship races.

“We continue to monitor the situation at Santa Anita and believe constructive changes are being made,” Breeders’ Cup spokesman Jim Gluckson told Wednesday evening.