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Santa Anita Park Deaths Draws Attention

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Equine Death Concern

This week Derby River became the 27th horse which had to be euthanized after training at the track in California. According to the veterinarians at the equine hospital, his injury was of such a kind that operating was not a viable option and the horse had to be euthanized. These 27 fatalities are only for the period since the 26th of December.

The pressure to Close the Tracks Down

These fatalities are putting a lot of pressure on the Stronach Group. This private Canadian firm owns many tracks in other states as well including Oregon, Maryland and Florida. Santa Anita Park has been open since 1930. It was home to Seabiscuit and many more thoroughbreds of fame. With all these deaths, the concern is that the park would have to be closed down. Stronger regulations are asked for while anti-animal cruelty is calling for the suspension of the entire sport. Almost ten horses die weekly on American racetracks.

Why Are the Horses Dying at Santa Anita Park?

Since the fatalities increased, the track has been shut down on the 5th of March for almost a month to investigate all the equine deaths. California is experiencing what some would consider the wettest winter in 10 years. The amount of downpour is causing the tracks to be much softer than usual. To treat these tracks for wet conditions is a challenging task since roads can quickly turn out to be too hard again in drier conditions. Does this mean that Santa Anita is a dangerous and deadly track? Statistics for the industry indicates that equine fatalities are declining, yet the stats also suggested that the death rate is the highest at Santa Anita Park when the three parks in California is compared to each other. Even though Santa Anita’s 1-mile dirt track has been indicated as the problem area, deaths have also occurred on the turf, and there were also deaths non-related to either training or racing.

Drug Regulation

Part of the problem is not only the racetrack but also the training and drugs that are administered to horses. Currently, each state is still regulating the administration and regulation of drugs in the equine industry. Many have been pushing to nationalize this, but it is still not the case. In their aim to reduce deaths, the Stronach Group also prohibited the use of whips, and substantial restrictions were placed on the use of anti-inflammation drugs, race-day medication and steroids. This includes Lasix, which is considered to be therapeutic medications but is indeed a performance enhancer. The horsemen of California did not well receive this although those fighting animal cruelty applauded the decision.

The Breeders’ Cup

The Triple Crown series is still running until the 23rd of June. The concern for riders and enthusiasts of the sport alike is the Breeder’s Cup World Championship which is due to take place in November. This might have to be moved to Churchill Downs who also plays home to the Kentucky Derby.