Santa Anita is one of the most famous thoroughbred racetracks in the world. Located in Arcadia, California it hosts some of the most prominent racing events in the world. This includes the Breeders’ Cup for many years.
Tragedy has struck the famous track, as Santa Anita had to shut down its main racing surface for two days following a rash of horse deaths. Workouts on the track dirt were canceled for two days as officials examined the track for problems with the soil in the wake of 19, yes you read that correct, 19 equine deaths since Christmas in 2018.
Sadly, deadly accidents are always a possibility in horse racing, but this number of horses stands out. There were only ten horse deaths at Santa Anita in the same period of 2017-18, eight in 2016-17 and fourteen in 2015-16, according to data from the California Horse Racing Board.
Of the 19 deaths, eleven have come in live racing and eight in morning workouts, according to state officials. And of the eleven live-racing deaths, six happened on the main dirt course and five on a turf track.
The track closed as Santa Anita sought to determine whether the soil and the excess rain in the area have contributed to the rising death toll of horses. The track has endured unusually heavy rainfall, 11 1/2 inches in just the past two months, Santa Anita officials said.
The area has experienced more than 11 inches of rain and “near-record cold temperatures” in the past month, which may have impacted the condition of the soil. The track surface is tested and evaluated on a daily basis, the park said.
Between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018, the park had 44 fatalities during the seven-month racing season. Ten of the deaths occurred during dirt racing and seventeen deaths occurred during dirt training, according to the newspaper.
That’s double the number of horses that died during the same time period last year, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Three horses died in a 16-hour period, one of which was 6-year-old Breeders’ Cup winner Battle of Midway.
The California Horse Racing Board is observing and making recommendations for the evaluation of the track but it is not involved in the testing, Martin said.
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