Sen. Feinstein, LA Times Call on Santa Anita to Stop Horse Racing After Another Equine Fatality

Posted on: May 29, 2019, 10:35h. 

Last updated on: May 29, 2019, 10:35h.

After three horses have died in a nine-day span at Santa Anita, California’s senior US senator on Tuesday renewed her call to suspend racing at the track.

Vasilika wins the Grade I Gamely Stakes Saturday at Santa Anita. The California track has received calls to stop racing in light of 26 equine deaths that have taken place at the track since December. (Image: BENOIT PHOTO/Santa Anita)

And on Wednesday, the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times added its voice to the issue.

Kochees, a 3-year-old gelding, was eased in a race Saturday at the Southern California track after the jockey noticed an injury. Vets put down the horse the next day after surgery was unsuccessful. Kochees’ death marked the 26th equine fatality at Santa Anita since late December.

How many more horses must die before concrete steps are taken to address what is clearly an acute problem?” US Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in her statement.

“I once again call for an immediate moratorium on racing at Santa Anita. We need a thorough investigation of practices and conditions at the track before any more races are held.”

Tuesday’s statement echoed Feinstein’s call from early April. That came after another horse died less than a week after track officials resumed racing from a self-imposed three-week suspension to inspect the track and investigate the deaths.

The Times, in its Wednesday editorial, noted that racing deaths take place across the country, but with only 12 days left in the track’s meet, it says it’s wise to shut down early.

“Why risk a 27th death? While the investigation continues, Santa Anita should stop risking horses’ lives and halt the racing season now,” the board wrote.

Racing Reforms Already Underway

After Arms Runner died in a March 31 race at Santa Anita, the track went nearly seven weeks without an incident. Commander Coil, a 3-year-old gelding, was euthanized on May 17 after sustaining an injury during a light workout.

While Santa Anita shut down racing in March, track owner The Stronach Group (TSG) announced it would implement sweeping changes to its racing policies. That included restrictions on the use of the riding crop and calling for a ban on race-day medications. It also included eliminating the use of Lasix, an anti-bleeding medication, by 2021. Horses that are currently on the medication would see their dosage reduced.

The California Horse Racing Board approved riding crop restrictions, which allow the jockey to only use it when the safety of horses or jockeys are in question.

A month later, other major racing stakeholders – including Churchill Downs and the New York Racing Authority – signed on to help implement similar reforms in their respective states.

In addition, legislation has been proposed in Congress that would implement national guidelines and bring US racing closer to standards elsewhere around the world.

PETA Calls for Nationwide Suspension

While Feinstein and the L.A. Times called on Santa Anita to stop racing, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called on a nationwide moratorium on racing. The organization’s Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo noted that equine deaths aren’t just a Santa Anita issue. In New York, there have been 15 fatalities this year.

PETA’s statement backed the reforms called on by TSG and urged the other states to follow suit.

“There is no excuse for this inaction,” the organization said. “PETA is calling for the suspension of racing nationwide until every racing jurisdiction matches or surpasses what California has done.”