Sport

Santa Anita racecourse shuts after 21 equine fatalities in 10 weeks

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Some have pointed to unusually wintry weather as a possible cause of the horses deaths at Santa Anita Park

On March 5, Lets Light the Way became the 21st horse to suffer a catastrophic injury since the current meet opened on December 26 when she broke down during training that morning.

Four-year-old filly Lets Light the Way, trained by Ron McAnally, was euthanised after pulling up with a shattered sesamoid, a bone at the horse's ankle joint. "There's something wrong in the foundation, or something is not right".

While racing for the week of March 14 remains scheduled, Ritvo wouldn't speculate on when training and racing would resume at the track, which opened in 1934.

"In whole, we feel confident in the track and we're just being very proactive", said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park.

Moore had previously served as Santa Anita's Track Superintendent from 2014 until December 31, 2018, when he entered semi-retirement.

Peterson is as perplexed as everyone else - but, like Southern California drivers unaccustomed to driving in wet conditions, Peterson suggests that the trainers and track officials may be unaccustomed to dealing with so much inclement weather.

A week before the track announced it was suspending operations, it closed for two days so a soil expert from the University of Kentucky could look for trouble. "I know it's a financial hit to them and horsemen, but they did the right thing". Peterson added, "We're all-in". "It's basketball season. If we were seeing 21 players drop dead, the sport would not be going on", she said. The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), the state's governing body, has been involved with the inspections as well.

A small group of animal rights supporters protested outside Santa Anita's main gate on Sunday.

Earlier, Santa Anita Park said it hired respected trackman Dennis Moore for consulting "as a precautionary measure with regard to the condition of the one mile main track". "The recent rash is just terrible". "We want to do all the testing that needs to be done". The life of a race horse gets worse when they're no longer "useful", meaning when they can no longer make money for their owners and those who bet on them, and they're sent to slaughter. In 1940, Seabiscuit won the Santa Anita Handicap, and in 2002 the park was a filming location for the movie named after him.

Santa Anita was due to stage one of its highest-profile cards of the year on Saturday, featuring the Grade One Santa Anita Handicap and the San Felipe Stakes, which is an important prep for the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Bob Hess asserted that all associated with the track "agree it's best" to shut it down and try to solve a tragic, and vexing, issue.

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