Emtech dies at Santa Anita, adding to racetrack toll

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The Santa Anita track is set against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. Photo: Elf assumed (based on copyright claims), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia
The Santa Anita track is set against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. Photo: Elf assumed (based on copyright claims), CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia

A horse competing at California’s Santa Anita Park racetrack suffered two broken forelimbs on Saturday, adding to the growing toll on the track in the last 10 months.

Emtech’s death is the 32nd linked to the track since December. It is a toll that has stirred controversy across the racing industry. The track owners introduced a range of measures following a review this year in the hopes of curbing the deaths.

The fall meeting in which Emtech died had only been launched the day before the death of the three-year-old colt.

Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, confirmed that Emtech was euthanized on the track after the eighth race on Saturday.

The horse had broken down on the track and was evaluated immediately by a team of on-track veterinarians, led by Santa Anita Park veterinarian Dr Dana Stead.

Stead saw that Emtech had two broken front forelimbs and made the decision to euthanize the horse.

Jockey Mario Gutierrez was unhurt in the incident.

The chief veterinarian for The Stronach Group, Dr Dionne Benson, said an immediate review would be launched into the factors that could have contributed to Emtech’s injury.

“Santa Anita will work closely with the California Horse Racing Board and will continue to brief our stakeholders and all of our constituents, including the public, as more facts come in.

“Emtech will undergo a necropsy at the University of California – Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, as is mandatory for all on-track accidents.

“The accident and the necropsy report will be reviewed by a team to learn what, if anything, could have been done to have prevented the accident.”

The Stronach Group says if anything is found that could have contributed to the incident, it will be addressed immediately.

Emtech had two wins from his five-race career leading up to his death. He also had a second and a third-place finish.

Santa Anita and The Stronach Group said they remained committed to leading transformative change in racing.

Emtech’s death came just days after California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, told the New York Times that racing was at risk in his state.

He also suggested he would curb horse owners and breeders with direct financial interests in the sport from serving on its regulatory board.

“I’ll tell you, talk about a sport whose time is up unless they reform,” Newsom said. “That’s horse racing. Incredible abuses to these precious animals and the willingness to just to spit these animals out and literally take their lives is a disgrace.”

Newsom told the newspaper that the public is far more aware of the abuses and death toll in the sport — 10 horses a week die on American racetracks, according to the Jockey Club.

“The more you realize what’s really going on, the more intolerant you become of certain behaviors,” he said. “If you don’t reform yourself, you’re going to get run over and others are going to reform for you in ways that you don’t like.”

The ongoing deaths at Santa Anita during the year prompted the cancellation of racing for more than three weeks in March. The death toll at the time stood at more than 20 in three months.

The track resumed racing after a range of reforms, which included trainers applying two days in advance before working out a horse; the introduction of “cushion crop” whips, as well as stronger medication controls.

Investigations are ongoing in a bid to identify any factors that may have played a part in the Santa Anita deaths, including how the horses are trained. The track surface has also come under scrutiny.

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