Horse death toll hits 23 at Santa Anita two days after racetrack's reopening


Whatever they’re doing to fix the Santa Anita racetrack, it does not appear to be completely working.

Arms Runner, a five-year-old gelding, had to be put down Sunday after severely injuring his front right leg in a fall on Santa Anita’s turf track, according to the Los Angeles Times.

He is the 23rd horse to die at the racetrack since the start of the season on Dec. 26, 2018, a span of 95 days. For reference, 44 horses died at the track all of last year. The root cause of the spike in deaths is still not known.

The home stretch race track is empty at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., Thursday, March 7, 2019. Extensive testing of the dirt track is under way at eerily quiet Santa Anita, where the deaths of 21 thoroughbreds in two months has forced the indefinite cancellation of horse racing and thrown the workaday world of trainers, jockeys and horses into disarray. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Despite numerous safety changes, it still only took two days after Santa Anita's reopening for a horse to die. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

What went wrong at Santa Anita

As the Times describes it, the incident appeared to be a random occurence on a dirt portion of the turf track:

The accident occurred in the feature race of the day, the Grade 3 $100,000 San Simeon Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race that starts at the top of a hillside and has a crossover point on dirt. The spill happened just as the horses were about to re-enter the turf portion of the course. It appeared that Arms Runner injured his right front leg.

Most worryingly, this death occurs only two days after Santa Anita proudly reopened its doors and announced the changes it had made for the safety of the horses.

Santa Anita had announced sweeping safety changes

Among the changes announced were the ban of race day medication with the exception of the diuretic Lasix, the use of which was also restricted by 50 percent. Other protocols implemented included transparency of veterinary records, approval for workouts, a commitment to purchase state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment for identifying pre-existing conditions before they become injuries, and a continuous review of the racetrack’s dirt and turf surface.

A ban on jockeys cropping their horses for anything other than a “a corrective safety measure” was also passed, though it could be some time before that is enacted due to regulations.

Per the Times, 62 horses raced Friday and 84 raced Saturday without incident. Thousands of timed workouts also went by without fatalities.

Those changes were made after Santa Anita cancelled all races indefinitely after its death toll hit 21 earlier this month, though another horse has died during limited workouts since then. Despite the step in the right direction, Santa Anita’s reopening was still met with protest, and those voices are likely to only get louder now.

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