ARCADIA – Santa Anita Park has suspended horse racing indefinitely amid concerns about the safety of its main, one-mile dirt track.
The announcement came after a 4-year-old filly, Lets Light the Way, was euthanized after suffering a broken ankle bone during training earlier that day. It was the 21st horse fatality in training or racing at the California track since Dec. 26, 2018.
“The safety, health and welfare of the horses and jockeys is our top priority,” said Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita. “While we are confident further testing will confirm the soundness of the track, the decision to close is the right thing to do at this time.”
Two big stakes races that were set for this weekend — the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap and the Grade II San Felipe for Kentucky Derby hopefuls — will be rescheduled, according to Tuesday’s press release.
More racing at the historic track is scheduled for Thursday, March 14.
The main track was closed for testing on Feb. 26 and 27 after 3-year-old gelding Charmer John suffered a fatal injury during training. His death was the fourth in four days at the track, including 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway.
At that time, Santa Anita brought in track safety expert Mick Peterson to examine the surface and subsurface for irregularities, and he also conducted ground radar testing earlier this week, according to the press release. Additional testing will be done by Dennis Moore, an industry veteran who is a former Santa Anita track superintendent.
“We first noticed it in mid-January,” Rick Baedeker, executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, told the Los Angeles Times about the spike in fatalities.
“We get daily reports from the safety stewards whenever there is a fatality. We were aware of the statistics and that led us to ask Dr. (Rick) Arthur, (the state’s chief equine veterinarian) to meet with people from the racing office.
“It was already a significant concern. But we’ve had situations in the past where there were extraordinary flurries and then nothing for a long time. You don’t know if it’s an anomaly. But here it went from bad to worse.”
Santa Anita is scheduled to host the prestigious Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 1-2.
–Field Level Media