Officials at Santa Anita Park are at a loss to explain the latest horse death at the facility — an unraced 3-year-old gelding who suffered a fatal shoulder injury Friday while galloping during training, the 24th horse death at the venue since the start of its winter meet on Dec. 26.
“Equine shoulder injuries are rare, especially for a horse that is galloping as opposed to breezing or racing,” according to a statement from The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita. “A comprehensive evaluation will be completed to understand what might have caused this uncommon injury.”
“The Stronach Group remains committed to operating Santa Anita Park with stringent protocols that prioritize the health and safety of horses and riders first and foremost.”
The death of the horse, who was named Commander Coil, was the first at the Arcadia track since March 31 when Arms Runner, a 5-year-old, suffered a severe and ultimately fatal injury to his right leg during a two-horse spill on a turf course that included a crossover on a hill. That course was later closed to sprint racing.
Racing was suspended at the track for much of March while authorities studied the racing surface for possible causes of the spike in horse deaths. Many observers speculated that last winter’s unusual level of rainfall played a role in the rise in fatalities. Santa Anita’s owners brought in national experts to conduct days of testing on the track’s soil, but no problems were found.
Races resumed after the state horse racing board approved a series of safety measures, including limits on certain types of medications administered to horses.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey last month announced the creation of a task force to investigate the deaths of the horses at the track.
In an April 2 letter to the California Horse Racing Board, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., called for racing to be suspended at the track “until the cause or causes of these deaths can be fully investigated.”
“The Stronach Group (the track owners) is fully committed to modernizing our sport in a way that prioritizes the welfare and safety of horses above all,” Santa Anita said in a statement released April 16 in response to Lacey’s announcement of the formation of the task force.
“We will work with anyone — including the District Attorney’s Office — that shares our commitment to this cause.”
In early April, Santa Anita officials announced a series of new measures to help bolster the safety of horses at the track including restrictions on certain medications, requiring trainers to get permission in advance before putting a horse through a workout and investing in diagnostic equipment to aid in the early detection of pre-existing conditions.
Friday also saw another equine death at a track owned by The Stronach Group when a 3-year-old filly named Congrats Gal collapsed and died moments after crossing the finish line last in the Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland — the site of Saturday’s high-profile Preakness Stakes.
“Congrats Gal suffered sudden death after the eighth race today,” the Stronach Group said in a statement. “The incident occurred after the wire. Commission veterinarians attended to the horse immediately. Our thoughts go out to all of the owners, trainers and connections of Congrats Gal.”
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