Santa Anita Racetrack Suspends Races Due to Horse Fatalities

Empty race track
Santa Anita Race Track has canceled racing indefinitely because 21 horses have died in the last 10 weeks.

30-second summary

  • Santa Anita Racetrack closed through the weekend as testing is conducted due to 21 horse fatalities in 10 weeks
  • Two major races will not take place at the track this weekend: the San Felipe and the Santa Anita Handicap
  • Latest fatality took place earlier in the week when a 4-year-old filly was injured and later euthanized

The Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California, has canceled all racing indefinitely while the track’s dirt surface is examined. Over the last two months, 21 horses that raced at the track have died. Races scheduled for this weekend have been canceled.

Re-examining the surface

The Santa Anita owner, The Stronach Group, has canceled racing for an indefinite period so the track can be examined. The company’s chief operating officer, Tim Ritvo, said that racing will not take place this weekend and did not announce when training or racing will be back up and running.

Mr. Ritvo said: “In whole, we feel confident in the track and we’re just being very proactive. We want to do all the testing that needs to be done. When we believe we’re in good shape, we’ll start to train over it again.”

With the closure, two events will not take place this weekend. The San Felipe was set for the track, featuring 3-year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls. Older horses were also supposed to race in the Santa Anita Handicap.

The track is scheduled to host races on March 14 and it is also supposed to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships later on this year.

Latest Fatality

Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally has been training a four-year-old filly, the latest fatality at the track. The filly fell during a workout on the main track and was later euthanized because of a sprain. Lets Light the Way was owned by McAnally’s wife and was put down due to a shattered sesamoid bone.

The weather could reportedly be an underlying cause of the fatalities. In Southern California, the winter has brought an unusual amount of rain. As much as 16 inches of rain fell in Arcadia, home of the race track.

It is not clear if the weather conditions played a role in any fatality at the track. According to Ritvo, the rain could have contributed to the injury because the track is not built for the weather that has taken place.

From late December of 2017 to late February of 2018, ten horse fatalities occurred. The previous year, there were eight deaths. The same period before that, from 2015 to 2016, 14 deaths occurred, as reported by the California Horse Racing Board.

After the first 19 deaths this season, the track shut down the main racing surface. The track was then inspected for any issues. The course was deemed fit and racing took place again. Then two more horses died, including McAnally’s filly.

Of the 21 total fatalities, seven took place on a dirt track, five on turf, and nine while training in the dirt. Animal rights activists have now taken action, protesting in front of the race track.