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Another horse dies at Santa Anita racetrack a day after it reopens

Horses racing on dirt track (Pixabay).



By Equestrian Life

It’s been a tragic few months at Santa Anita racetrack in California, and it’s just gotten worse. Just a day after the track reopened for training, another horse has died — breaking both front legs at the conclusion of a half-mile (800m) workout.

In a response to the baffling surge in fatalities, the track’s owners announced a ban on all race day medication and have limited the use of whips. The move has come hours after the 22nd horse death and is believed to be without precedent in North American racing. Most countries outside of North America, including Australia, already ban the use of medication/treatment on race day.

Racing at the track was suspended last week for the second time this year in response to previous deaths, however it reopened Wednesday for training with hopes of racing making a return next week. Racing currently remains suspended.

The new rules regarding race day medication and whips will also be enacted at another Californian track under the same ownership as Santa Anita — Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley.

The owners of the track have published an open letter on the future of Thoroughbred racing in California, which you can read here.

A commonly used drug in the US is furosemide, more commonly known as Lasix. This drug is supposed to lessen the risk of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. The LA Times has reported that 19 of the 22 horses who have died at Santa Anita in the recent spike used Lasix; this drug has now been banned for use on race day at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. Legal painkillers, anabolic steroids and shockwave therapy will also see increased bans under the track owners’ new laws.

US congress has also since moved to reintroduce the Horseracing Integrity Act, which would ban the use of medication in the 24 hours before a race and introduce national standards to replace the mix of regulations from 38 state racing commissions. This bill was first introduced (unsuccessfully) in 2017.

In terms of the use of whips, it has been reported that the restrictions mean that a cushion crop should only be used as a corrective safety measure (rather to urge horses to go faster).

The reasons behind the spate of deaths at Santa Anita are still unclear. Some have pointed to unseasonal rainfall affecting the surface, others have mentioned overuse of the surface, while some point to wider issues such as drugs/medication and generally overworking of the horses.

Investigations are on going. The owners of the track have taken a step in the right direction, concluding their open latter by saying, “First and foremost, we must do right by the horse. When we do right by the horse, everything – everything – will follow.”




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