Despite 29th Racehorse Death, Santa Anita Park Refuses to Close

Back in February, after 19 racehorses had lost their lives within two months at Santa Anita Park in Southern California, the track’s owners — the Stronach Group, or TSG — released a statement.

“At the Stronach Group, we consider the safety and security of the athletes, both equine and human, who race at our facilities, to be our top priority,” said Tim Ritvo, its chief operating officer.

Yet the deadly track remained open.

Soon after that statement was released, two more horses died. Finally seeming to do the right thing, TSG announced on March 5 that it was closing the track indefinitely and having it inspected by experts to try to determine the cause of so many catastrophic injuries. But less than a week later — and before necropsy reports were available to provide further information about how all those racehorses died — TSG announced that the track was safe and reopened it for training.

Two days after that, a filly named Princess Lili was euthanized after she broke both her front legs on the track, becoming the 22nd fatality at Santa Anita since December 26.

Considering how much TSG claims to care about the safety of horses and riders, they immediately closed this deathtrap of a track, right? Wrong. It soon reopened for racing. Since then, seven more racehorses have lost their lives.

Unlike the first 22 racehorses who mostly suffered catastrophic injuries to their front legs, four of the more recent deaths were due to shoulder or pelvis injuries, which are unusual — and yet another reason why the track should close.

After the death of the 29th racehorse on June 9, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), a regulatory agency whose mission is to ensure the safety of the state’s horse-racing industry, made what the Los Angeles Times referred to as an “unprecedented move”: It asked Santa Anita to cancel all races a couple of weeks before the season’s official end on June 23.

Two days later, California Gov. Gavin Newsom also called for the track to be shut down until the cause of all those deaths can be determined. “Enough is enough,” he said in a statement. “I am calling on the California Horse Racing Board to ensure that no horse races until they are examined by independent veterinarians and found fit to compete.”

Proving to the world just how much they truly care about the safety and security of the horses, TSG refused to close the track.

So, why doesn’t the CHRB ignore TSG’s refusal and shut down this deathtrap?

Unfortunately, the horse racing board can’t do that — for now, at least. Before it can suspend races without a track’s approval, the CHRB must first schedule a meeting for which it must provide 10 days’ notice to the public, as required under the state’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act.

But when the lives of racehorses are at stake, as they are at Santa Anita, having to wait at least 10 days before holding a meeting is much too long a time.

Fortunately, to give the CHRB the power to immediately shut down any dangerous track, California Sen. Bill Dodd and Assemmblyman Adam Gray introduced State Bill 469 in April. If passed, it will allow the CHRB to waive the 10 days’ meeting notice requirement and immediately suspend track owners’ licenses in emergency situations. The license will remain suspended until the track complies with additional safety standards and the CHRB determines that any problems that jeopardize racehorses or jockeys have been adequately resolved.

The good news is that Newsom recently announced his support of SB 469, as well as initiatives to protect racehorses — such as banning drugs on race day that mask previous injuries. Last year, necropsies found that 88 percent of the horses that died at Santa Anita Park had diuretics and other medications in their systems that allowed them to continue racing despite having injuries.

On June 12, the CHRB and Santa Anita announced enhanced protocols, effective immediately, that require an independent panel — including the CHRB’s equine medical director and steward — to review each racehorse’s medical, training and racing history before the horse is allowed to race.

But according to the Los Angeles Times, neither Santa Anita or the CHRB — or the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which oversees the CHRB — would provide any details on “how the process would work and what the measures say about the current state of enforcement.”

After Santa Anita closes for the season later this month, here’s hoping it never reopens — or at least state lawmakers help save racehorses’ lives by passing SB 469 and giving the CHRB the power to immediately shut down this and other dangerous racetracks.

Take Action

  • Please join over 63,000 people who have signed this petition urging California legislators to save racehorses’ lives by passing SB 469.
  • To protect racehorses nationwide, sign and share this petition asking the U.S. Congress to pass the Horseracing Integrity Act (H.R. 1754). This act would create a uniform national standard for drug testing and ban all medications within 24 hours of a race.
  • Do you think Santa Anita Park should be shut down permanently? Join more than 92,000 people who have signed this petition demanding this dangerous track to be closed for good.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You‘ll find Care2′s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.



Chad A
Chad A6 days ago

Thank you.

Georgina Elizab M


Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini27 days ago

If anyone is still following this thread....
I have just watched an interview with an English race horse trainer who explained that one of the problems with American racing is that race-day medication of various sorts is allowed. These pharmaceuticals over the years weaken horses so that they are more likely to break legs. This practice is banned in all the rest of the world. Why does America continue to put race horses at risk like this?

oliver mally
oliver mally29 days ago

shame shame shame!

Georgina Elizab McAlliste
Georgina Elizab Mabout a month ago


Amparo Fabiana Chepote
Amparo Fabiana Chepoteabout a month ago

Signed and delivered. Money is all they care. They dont feel they race. Imbeciles.

Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvinabout a month ago

as usual money is more important than living beings

Diane E
Diane Eabout a month ago

Carry on the petitioning and campaigning. Inhumane leisure activities must be curbed.

Michael Friedmann
Michael Fabout a month ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Sherri S
Sherri Sabout a month ago

Petition signed! It is a disgrace this death trap is still open! I'm so sorry that horses are losing their lives and few seem to care.