Santa-Anita-LogoAnother sad day from one of America’s favorite tracks. And this is a story we keep hearing over and over. Santa Anita Park’s opening weekend reportedly was marred by the death of another racehorse, although the latest fatality happened two days before Saturday’s rescheduled opening day.

Truest Reward, a 3-year-old gelding, died during a period when the track was closed to workouts but was open for jogging and galloping. Truest Reward broke his left front leg on the training track, which is considered the safest surface at the track.

Thursday, December, 26th, was supposed to be Santa Anita’s opening day, but forecasts of rain prompted track officials to postpone the first day of its 83rd winter meeting until Saturday, when 11 races were run without incident.

Santa Anita and the sport of horse racing, in general, have faced increasing pressure from animal-rights activists amid the death of at least 38 horses at the track over the last year.


How Many Horses Passed

Among those that died were 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway while training at the track on February 23rd and Mongolian Groom, who was euthanized after suffering a fatal injury in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on November 2nd.

Some activists, who showed up at the track, hosted a “funeral” and “vigil” that included a bagpiper for the horses who have died over the past year.

Heather Wilson of Horseracing Wrongs said, “This is an inherently deadly sport. We all know it is only a matter of time before another horse is going to be killed on this track.”


Craig Fravel, CEO of Racing Operations for The Stronach Group, who also happens to own Santa Anita, stated, “We have incredible veterinary oversight of these animals, we also have changed medication rules and we’ve got vets watching in the morning and making sure that any horse that shows any signs of lameness are taken care of and looked after and I think we’re confident that everything we’ve done has produced positive results.”


The California Horse Racing Board is set to issue a report next month on the horse deaths. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office concluded December 19th, that there was no criminal wrongdoing connected to the horse deaths, but they did offer a series of recommendations aimed at improving safety at all racetracks in California.

The district attorney called on state regulators to develop safety enhancements to reduce horse deaths, including possible enhanced penalties for rules violations, establishment of a tip line for people to report violations or animal cruelty allegations and mandated inspections of racing and training facilities, and reviews of necropsy and veterinary records of horses that have died.

The report noted that officials at Santa Anita have implemented a series of safety-improvement measures that “have reduced the number of fatal racing and training incidents.”

An advertisement for Santa Anita that has run in the Los Angeles Times‘ has touted that “California racing is proud to be at the forefront of horse and rider welfare as we introduce revolutionary safety protocols for the modern era. On our tracks every horse comes first.”


Doing All They Can

Earlier this month, Santa Anita debuted a “cutting-edge” PET Scan machine to provide imaging of the fetlock or ankle joint. This is the most common area for injuries to occur in Thoroughbreds. Without horses having to undergo anesthesia and said it will help to diagnose pre-existing conditions in Thoroughbred racehorses.

Truest Reward’s death was first reported Saturday.  He was trained by Doug O’Neill and was winless in four starts.

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