Multiple Injuries and Deaths at Santa Anita Park Raise Flags About Safe Racing Conditions

The most recent incidents forced the postponement of two major events.

As momentum builds for the Triple Crown Races in May and June, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia reliably draws both crowds and attention this time of year. But the famous racetrack is currently drawing notice for all the wrong reasons. Since December 26, 2018, 21 horses were euthanized due to race or training injuries on the track, the most recent on March 5. The latest casualty forced the park to close for the second time in eight days while track conditions are examined. Officials also announced postponement of the track’s signature race, the Santa Anita Handicap, famously won by Seabiscuit in 1940, and the San Felipe Handicap, a major prep race for 3-year-olds trying to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

According to The New York Times, “Santa Anita officials had little choice. Neither animal rights activists nor casual sports fans have the stomach to see a horse be put down after a catastrophic injury. Ever since the Kentucky Derby in 2008, when the filly Eight Belles had to be euthanized after finishing second, racing officials have worried that another high-profile breakdown could put the sport out of business.

“’Quite frankly, we are no longer at a place or time where these incidents can withstand the status quo,’ Jim Gagliano, the president and chief operating officer of the Jockey Club, said. ‘The health and safety of the horse and rider is of the utmost importance, and the entire racing industry has to redouble our efforts to prevent these tragedies.’”

Read more about California’s role in competitive racing and how Santa Anita’s woes could affect the entire industry here.

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