Horse death toll rises at Santa Anita
A third horse has died in nine days at Santa Anita Park, bringing the equine death toll at the Southern California track to 26 since December 26.
Track officials confirmed that 9-year-old gelding Kochees was euthanized on Sunday, a day after suffering a leg injury in a $10,000 claiming race.
Mike Willman, Santa Anita’s director of publicity, confirmed that surgeons determined the animal couldn’t be saved because of loss of blood flow to the injured limb.
The three deaths in nine days follow nearly six weeks without a fatality at the scenic race track northeast of Los Angeles.
But 26 horses have died in either racing or training since the current race meeting opened on December 26.
The fatalities sparked protests from animal rights activists and resulted in extensive tests of the surface and subsurface of the dirt track — which found no apparent cause for the increase in breakdowns.
The Stronach Group, owners of Santa Anita and other tracks around the country, has proposed changes to promote horse welfare including a reduction in race-day administration of medications and the elimination of the use of riding crops except to ensure safety.
Stronach officials, including president and chief executive Belinda Stronach, wanted to extend the reforms to their facilities in other states as well, but have encountered resistance from some working in the racing industry.
Santa Anita is slated to stage this year’s Breeders’ Cup on November 1-2.