Santa Anita suspends racing after 21 horses die in 10 weeks

High-profile cards to be rescheduled as California track carries out testing on racing surface

Animal-rights advocates protest the deaths of 20 racehorses in the first two months of this year at the Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia, California. Racing has been suspended indefinitely at the track. Photograph:  Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Animal-rights advocates protest the deaths of 20 racehorses in the first two months of this year at the Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia, California. Racing has been suspended indefinitely at the track. Photograph: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

 

Racing and training at Santa Anita racecourse in California has been suspended indefinitely following 21 equine fatalities in 10 weeks at the venue.

The Stronach Group, which owns the track, is planning “additional extensive testing” of the one-mile main course following another assessment of the surface in recent days.

“The safety, health and welfare of the horses and jockeys is our top priority,” said Tim Ritvo, Stronach’s chief operating officer.

“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.”

Santa Anita was due to stage one of its highest-profile cards of the year on Saturday, featuring the Grade One Santa Anita Handicap and the San Felipe Stakes, which is an important prep for the Kentucky Derby. The races are due to be rescheduled.

Former Santa Anita track superintendent Dennis Moore will lead the track testing with measures including the use of an Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester – a device that mimics the impacts of a horse running at full gallop allowing engineers to see how the track holds up.

The Stronach Group added it will also be conducting a comprehensive evaluation of all existing safety measures and current protocols.

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