Toll rises with the death of another horse at Santa Anita


Horses keep dying at California’s Santa Anita racetrack.

The latest casualty was Mongolian Groom, a 4-year-old gelding who was euthanized after breaking a leg in the last race on Breeders’ Cup Day.

The Los Angeles Times editorial board has weighed in the string of deaths at the famed racecourse, saying death should not be a regular or acceptable byproduct of horse racing.

Mongolian Groom injured his hind left limb in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Officials said the horse was immediately seen by an expert team of veterinarians.

X-rays were taken to assess the injury, but euthanasia was subsequently recommended.

Breeders’ Cup Ltd said the death of Mongolian Groom was a loss to the entire horse racing community.

It said the safety of horses and jockeys was its top priority.

“We have worked closely with Santa Anita leading up to the World Championships to promote enhanced equine safety,” the company said in a statement.

“Santa Anita has implemented numerous industry-leading reforms to enhance the existing health and safety measures with the intent of providing a safe racing environment.

“In addition, Breeders’ Cup always observes the most thorough up-to-date medication practices and restrictions, testing protocols, equine security and surveillance program, veterinary exams, injury management protocols and racing surface testing.

“These measures are in place to ensure our athletes are racing under the safest and most transparent conditions possible.”

The company, which stressed its commitment to advance safety reforms, said it had engaged a world-renowned veterinarian, Dr Larry Bramlage, to conduct an independent evaluation, the results of which will be published.

There have been 37 horse deaths linked to the racecourse in the last 11 months, which has sparked widespread criticism.

Santa Anita Park, owned by the Stronach Group, even closed the track temporarily in March for a safety evaluation after the deaths of more than 20 horses in three months. It reopened with a range of safety reforms, but deaths continue to occur.

The Los Angles Times, in its editorial, described it as a tumultuous year at Santa Anita.

It noted that, despite the tough new safety rules, there were six deaths in racing or training during the six-week fall meeting leading up to the Breeders’ Cup races on Friday and Saturday.

It acknowledged that Santa Anita appeared to be working hard to bring down fatalities, but suggested more could be done, including establishing a central pharmacy and even replacing its dirt track with a synthetic track.

“Meanwhile, Congress should pass the Horseracing Integrity Act, creating an independent horse-racing authority to set nationwide rules.”

Hopefully, even more changes at Santa Anita will take it close to eliminating fatalities, the board said.

“If it can’t, and if no racing park in the United States can, then the inescapable question for elected officials and the public in California and across the nation is: Do we want to continue a sport — even a historic and beloved sport — in which horses’ lives are routinely sacrificed so that people can be entertained?”

One thought on “Toll rises with the death of another horse at Santa Anita

  • November 4, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    For most horse sport disciplines, starting with racing c.300 years ago, use of a bit is mandated. In my opinion, the bit causes obstruction of the upper airway and results, as in man, in waterlogging of the lung, i.e., negative pressure pulmonary edema or NPPE. Again, IMO, ‘bleeding’ (i.e., EIPH) is just one of its signs; premature fatigue and poor performance being two others. In man, NPPE is a life-threatening emergency caused by upper airway obstruction. In man, a state of unconsciousness supervenes long before death occurs.

    For all we know, racehorses that bleed, tire, and lose muscle tone could also be unconscious before they ‘take a false step’ (i.e., before they place the full-weight and velocity of their own body and that of the rider on a limb in which ligaments, tendons and joints are not supported by good muscle tone, at the fetlock joint in particular), fracture a long bone/sesamoid or dislocate a joint, fall or die on their feet.
    We know that bits cause pain and lameness. It is reasonable to assume from this that bits may also cause catastrophic accidents. There is evidence enough that bits cause pain and lameness and we also know that horses can be ridden without bits, so let’s act on these facts alone to update an archaic rule and allow bit-free racing. My prediction is that such a long-overdue rule update will be shown to significantly reduce the prevalence of catastrophic accidents and sudden death, as well as pain and lameness.

    US racing is being presented with an opportunity to lead by example for its own good and for racing worldwide.


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