Santa Anita Park to host Breeders' Cup despite 30 horse deaths already in 2019

Ben WeinribYahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

Despite 30 horse deaths in less than six months, Santa Anita track will still host the Breeders’ Cup in November.

The Breeders' Cup board of directors met on Thursday in Lexington, Kentucky, and unanimously decided to keep the two-day event in Arcadia, California.

This decision comes just one day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that could immediately suspend horse-racing licenses. The bill was introduced because of the publicity surrounding the horse deaths at Santa Anita.

Santa Anita’s track had to be closed in March because of 22 horse deaths in its first two months, and there’s been plenty of discussion about how safety can be improved. The track implemented more stringent safety and medication rules, but that hasn't stopped more horses from dying.

Still, the Breeders’ Cup board of directors decided that enough changes had been made to keep the race at Santa Anita for a record 10th time.

“We’ve spent a lot of time watching these events and the number of safety reforms since the track reopened,” Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel said, via the Los Angeles Times. “We feel very comfortable and have been reassured that the track is performing very safely.”

Whether California might use its new powers to call off the event is a question for another day, but at the very least, there is plenty of pressure to make sure Santa Anita is safer than ever.

Santa Anita Park will remain the host of the Breeders' Cup, its board of directors announced Thursday. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)
Santa Anita Park will remain the host of the Breeders' Cup, its board of directors announced Thursday. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

How dangerous is Santa Anita Park?

While 30 horse deaths this season sounds like a lot, it’s actually a fairly low number for Santa Anita Park.

Going back to 2008, at least 30 horses have died every year at the track, according to numbers compiled by KTLA, with a high of 59 in 2012. Over the last 11 seasons, an average of 42 horses died per year — 19 during races and 23 during training. That number has eclipsed 50 twice in the last three years.

Worse yet, Santa Anita isn’t even the most dangerous track. The Los Angeles Times found that an average of 2.04 horses died per 1,000 starts last year, which is higher than the national average of 1.68. But if the Breeders’ Cup would have been moved, it likely would have been to Churchill Downs, which had 2.73 deaths per 1,000 starts.

Calls to end horse racing have been made for a long time from organizations like PETA, but as these deaths become more prominent in the news, those calls are growing louder and coming from local and state governments too.

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