Authorities at Santa Anita have defended the track's safety record after two more equine fatalities at the end of last week took the death toll at the winter-spring carnival to four.
The latest horse to die was the four-year-old Uncontainable, who was calculated to have been the 41st at the track since December 2018 when put down after fracturing a right front ankle in the first race on Saturday.
A five-year-old named Harliss suffered a similar fate at the previous day's meeting, while Golden Birthday, a four-year-old gelding, was fatally injured in a racing incident on New Year's Day.
The first fatality occurred on the training track on December 26, two days before the carnival began, when three-year-old gelding Truest Reward broke his left front leg.
A statement issued by the track on Saturday said: "Santa Anita remains committed to transparency. Our safety statistics and incident reports are publicly available on our website at SantaAnita.com/safety.
"Home to 2,000 horses, Santa Anita Park is one of the largest equine training facilities in the United States. Horses raced or trained at Santa Anita Park more than 420,000 times over the last year with a 99.991% safety rate."
Equine welfare became a top priority in the US last year when the mounting toll of fatalities attracted considerable national media attention and widespread calls for reform. The issue became national news once again at the weekend.
Enhanced safety measures and increased veterinary vigilance appear to have reduced the fatality rate significantly, but much of the track's good public relations work was undone in the last race on the last day of its six-week autumn meeting, when Mongolian Groom died in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
In additional news four horses were euthanized after racing at the New Orleans Fairgrounds Race Course within the last six racing days.
“J Rob” who won, had celebratory pics taken, and was euthanized on January 9th, “Big Shanty” euthanized on January 11th, “Jim’s Silverbullet” in a spill on the 16th, and “Take Charge Cece” on the 17th according to Equibase records.
The deaths at the New Orleans Fairgrounds come on the heels of the recent deaths of two quarter horses at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs in Bossier City on opening day.
Trent Dang, Director of Marketing at the Fair Grounds, provided the following statement: “At Fair Grounds Race Course, we care deeply about the safety and well-being of racehorses and do not take fatalities or injuries of any nature at our facility lightly. We have joined forces with industry leaders all over the country through the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition to establish necessary reforms and implement the world’s best practices for the care of racehorses.
"The proposed federal legislation, which is very controversial across the industry, is laudable in seeking fairness of competition through medication reform, a concept we absolutely support, but lacks broad consensus on how it will work, how it will be funded and what agency has the expertise and willingness to provide the necessary oversight. The bill also does not address track safety protocols which is another matter for which we remain deeply focused and very active.
"We will continue to implement meaningful procedures at Fair Grounds Race Course that address the safety and welfare of our equine and human athletes and this commitment extends to working with industry leaders and regulators to truly advance the integrity and accountability we share towards the public, the fans, and most importantly, these magnificent horses.”
Executive Director of Animal Wellness Action, Marty Irby, provided the following statement: “American horseracing is addicted to drugs, and it’s time for an intervention. As the casualties continue to rise, the public sentiment continues to shift away from eliminating doping in horseracing to eliminating horseracing itself. Our modern-day society will no longer tolerate the deaths of these iconic American equines for entertainment – this isn’t Ancient Rome, it’s 2020.
“But Louisiana has been a stumbling block for reform, and obstructionists in the industry who’ve failed to support the Horseracing Integrity Act, and continue to thwart reform, should ask themselves if they want to end up like the Ringling Bros. Circus – out of business.”
Irby said that the the Horseracing Integrity Act would take a tangible stride toward protecting American racehorses through the establishment of a national, uniform standard for drugs and medication in horse racing.
It would also grant drug rulemaking, testing, and enforcement oversight to a private, non-profit, self-regulatory independent organization overseen by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) – the governing body that administers the Olympic anti-doping program, at no cost to the taxpayer.
Additional reporting ThoroughbredNEWS News Desk