Racing at Santa Anita Park should resume around March 22, according to track officials. Upon their return, horses and their connections will find much needed changes in place regarding the safety of the horses and riders. Tim Rivito, the Chief Operating Officer of the group that operates the facility, talked about the changes:
“The safety of our equine and human athletes remains our highest priority. We need to work together and continue to create not only our own internal audits, but an open and honest dialogue with all of the stakeholders and evaluate best practices at other racetracks around the world.”
The Main Track at Santa Anita Park reopened for limited training Monday, but it remains closed for racing indefinitely as officials work on implementing a series of safety protocols, long overdue given the death of 21 horses at the track since December 26th.
The protocols, announced on Friday, are as follows:
•Trainers who want to put a horse through timed, high-speed training exercises will be required to ask for permission 24 hours in advance. Officials said the move will help the track veterinarians identify “at-risk” horses by evaluating past performance, workout data and physical inspections.
•The track has hired additional veterinarians “to observe all horses entering and exiting the tracks each morning during training hours.”
•The track is also instituting a “House Rule” requiring “complete transparency with regard to veterinary records,” requiring that the records follow the horse through changes in trainers or owners.
•Santa Anita also created the position of Director of Equine Welfare, which will be filled by an accredited veterinarian. The position will oversee “all aspects of equine well-being and will lead a Rapid Response team for injuries.” That team will investigate all factors contributing to the injury and share its findings with the public, track officials said.
Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, applauded the move Saturday, saying:
“The enhanced safety measures and protocols being undertaken by Santa Anita are among the most progressive in all of horse racing. We applaud track officials for taking these important steps, which will lead to a safer racing environment for humans and equines.”
The most recent fatality at the track occurred last Tuesday morning, when a 4-year-old filly named LETS LIGHT THE WAY was injured during training and had to be euthanized. That death — which led to the suspension of all racing and training activity at the park — was the 21st at Santa Anita since December 26th.
The Daily Racing Blog believes that the new procedures Santa Anita has introduced are a step in the right direction, seeing as how track officials have acknowledged that the recent rash of deaths was never just about all the rain and bad track conditions.
The reviews of horses’ past races and workout times, along with more physical examinations, should help to reveal when animals are being medicated to mask injuries. But let the industry also mandate that veterinary records remain with each horse throughout their life, which would ensure that injuries aren’t hidden or veiled.
If there is a trainer of any these 21 horses at Santa Anita that knew the animal(s) were sore or injured, and gave them painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and/or sedatives in order to keep them running, instead of resting, then said trainer is culpable in these deaths and should be charged with cruelty to animals.
On Wednesday DRB will begin to take a look at the field for Saturdays major Prep-Race The Rebel Stakes which is run at Oaklawn Park.