The owner of Santa Anita Park is pledging to immediately address any factors that could have prevented a 3-year-old colt from being euthanized on the second day of its autumn racing meet.
“The Stronach Group and Santa Anita safety measures put horse and rider safety above all else,” the statement from The Stronach Group said. “There is an expected level of safety and accountability that is required to participate at a Stronach Group racetrack.
“If anything less is found which could have contributed to this incident, it will be addressed immediately. Santa Anita and The Stronach Group remain committed to leading transformative change in this traditional sport.”
Emtech was euthanized on Santa Anita Park’s dirt track after breaking two front forelimbs in Saturday’s eighth race. The colt was evaluated immediately after breaking down by a team of on-track veterinarians, led by Santa Anita Park veterinarian Dr. Dana Stead, who made the decision to humanely euthanize Emtech, according to The Stronach Group, the track’s owner.
Jockey Mario Gutierrez was uninjured.
“As is protocol at Santa Anita, we will open an immediate review into what factors could have contributed to Emtech’s injury,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, The Stronach Group’s chief veterinarian. “Santa Anita will work closely with the California Horse Racing Board and will continue to brief our stakeholders and all of our constituents, including the public, as more facts come in.”
Emtech will undergo a necropsy at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, as is mandatory for all on-track horse fatalities, Benson said.
“The accident and the necropsy report will be reviewed by a team to learn what, if anything, could have been done to have prevented the accident,” Benson said.
Emtech had two victories, a second-place finish and a third-place finish in his five races before Saturday. He won his most recent race before Saturday, a 5 1/2-furlong race at Los Alamitos Race Course Sept. 14.
Santa Anita Park is under unprecedented scrutiny over safety concerns after 30 fatalities during the track’s winter-spring meeting.
The 4-year-old gelding Zeke was euthanized Sept. 16 after being diagnosed with a pelvic fracture after being pulled up while working on Santa Anita Park’s training track, the Los Angeles Times reported.
PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo on Saturday called on Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey “to release the findings on the culpability of trainers and veterinarians who may have used drugs, knee joint injections and other dangerous methods to keep injured horses racing.”
Lacey created a task force in April of what she described as “experienced deputy district attorneys and sworn peace officers with varied expertise within my office” to “thoroughly investigate and evaluate the evidence to determine whether unlawful conduct or conditions affected the welfare and safety of horses at Santa Anita Park.”
Said Guillermo: “Tragically, we have no answers, no mandate for the use of CT scan technology to detect the preexisting injuries that cause broken ankles, no switch to safer synthetic tracks which PETA has requested and no end in sight to the deaths.”
“The horses may not get a funeral, but racing is certainly digging its own grave,” Guillermo said.
The Stronach Group has implemented several measures in an attempt to solve the mystery of why so many horses have died at Santa Anita Park.
New medical protocols were put in place to make sure horses were as sound as possible before running. The track was torn up during the offseason to install a new drainage system.
Racing was halted at Santa Anita Park for most of March while examinations were conducted on the track.
Races resumed April 4 after the California Horse Racing Board approved a series of safety measures, and track officials announced a series of steps aimed at bolstering the safety of horses.
They included 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.
The Stronach Group and the California Horse Racing Board also created a “safety review team” that evaluates all horses at the track. The panel of veterinarians and stewards has the authority to scratch a horse from a race if even one panelist questions the animal’s fitness.
Santa Anita officials announced last week it will have a seven-member veterinary inspection team for the autumn meet, led by Benson. The team will “oversee every aspect of Santa Anita’s training and racing operation,” a track official said.
“In addition to reviewing past performance, workout patterns and veterinary records, this team will continue to observe horses as they go to and exit both the main track and training track each morning, as well as observe horses as they go through their daily routines, be it jogging, galloping or breezing,” a track statement said.
Track officials noted that all horses entered to run at the track will be “physically inspected at their respective barns.”
The team “will be reviewing all horses that have given 48-hour notice to work out, on either the one-mile main track or six-furlong training track, as well as reviewing all horses that are entered to run in races,” according to the statement.