Law California Suspend Horse Race SafetyThere is now new legislation in place that will grant California the authority to actually suspend a horse race for safety reasons. State Senate Bill 469 allows for California’s Horse Racing Board to suspend horse racing licenses if the board deems it necessary to protect the safety of horses or riders.

California Governor Gavin Newsom just signed the bill weeks after he directed the board to apply new safety measures and create a review group at Santa Anita Park for the remainder of the racing season. The newly signed law takes effect immediately. The famed park, which will host the 2019 Breeders’ Cup in November, faced heightened scrutiny and tons of negative coverage this year as a total of thirty horses died there this season.

Why Was This Signed

After two horses died at the racetrack in a single weekend, the board asked Santa Anita to shut down for the rest of season. The board could not force the closure because it did not have the authority under state law to shut down a racetrack without the approval of the track’s operator, short of an allegation of a rule violation.
The new law changes that.
SB 469 updates the law to allow the board to take immediate action on race meet licenses if horse or rider safety is determined to be at risk, the governor’s office said.
“Business, as usual, has resulted in too many horse deaths,” Newsom said in a statement. “I applaud the Legislature for taking action to expand the authority of the CHRB to cancel or move race meets when animal and human safety are at risk. This problem demands deeper partnership between the CHRB and track officials.”

Positive Results are Expected

The owners of the track, The Stronach Group, said it has improved the racing conditions over the years and credited those measures reducing the number of horse deaths in recent years.
Nevertheless, the string of deaths in 2019 prompted an investigation of owners and trainers as well as a ban on Hall of fame horse trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (which we wrote about in a previous blog post) after one of his thoroughbreds died at the track. Enough was enough.
Governor Newsom acknowledged Santa Anita’s cooperation with the review board. The board used an enhanced process to determine if a horse is at elevated risk of injury before racing. A whopping total of thirty-eight horses have been scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita after the review process was implemented.

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