The tragic case of 23 horses dying at the famed Santa Anita racetrack this year has mystified the horse racing world for months. Now the district attorney is getting involved.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced she was creating a task force to “investigate and evaluate the evidence to determine whether unlawful conduct or conditions affected the welfare and safety of horses at Santa Anita Park.”
Per Lacey’s statement, the task force will be composed of deputy district attorneys and peace officers in her office.
Lacey’s task force will hopefully get to the bottom of a horrifying phenomenon that has forced the Santa Anita racetrack to adopt a litany of new safety measures, including a near-total ban on race day medications, a new system for transparent veterinary records, approvals for workouts and a continuous review of the racetrack’s dirt and turf surfaces. A ban on the practice of jockeys cropping their horses is also pending approval.
Santa Anita actually shut down the track’s races for much of March to review and implement the new safety protocols, when the death toll was at 21. Another horse had to be put down after a practice run gone wrong during the shutdown, then a gelding named Arms Runner severely injured his right front leg during a race two days after the shutdown ended.
That was the 23rd horse to die at the racetrack since the start of the season on Dec. 26, then a span of 95 days. If that pace continued, it would have added up to over 88 horse deaths in a year. For reference, 44 horses died at the track all of last year.
While the new system hopefully halts Santa Anita’s awful pace of horse deaths, at least one advocacy group, The Jockey Club, has called for a complete regulatory overhaul for the sport of horse racing in reaction to the case. Given that the 44 deaths last year was called an “exceptionally safe year” in the middle of all this, it’s hard to disagree with them.
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