A necropsy is pending Sunday — as required for all on-track horse deaths — for Satchel Paige, a 3-year-old gelding who was euthanized Saturday after breaking his left front ankle not quite halfway through the fifth race at Santa Anita, the 34th horse death at the track since Dec. 26.
The procedure, performed by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine on behalf of the California Horse Racing Board, will be used to determine what, if anything, could have prevented the horse’s injury, officials said.
“Satchel Paige, a three-year-old gelding, was humanely euthanized after the fifth race on Saturday, October 19th at Santa Anita Park,” The Stronach Group, which operates Santa Anita Park, said a statement Saturday. “After being pulled up at the 3/8th pole, Satchel Paige was immediately evaluated by a team of on-track veterinarians, led by Santa Anita Park veterinarian Dr. Dana Stead, and transported in the equine ambulance. Dr. Stead observed that the horse had suffered an open fracture of his left front ankle and made the decision to humanely euthanize the gelding.
“… The Stronach Group and Santa Anita safety measures put horse and rider safety above all else. Santa Anita and The Stronach Group remain committed to leading transformative change in this traditional sport.”
Satchel Paige was racing for breeder/owner Nick Alexander, and was trained by Phil D’Amato and his staff, the group said. He had six career starts, with no victories, one second-place finish, one third-place finish and $24,000 in earnings, according to Equibase.com.
Meanwhile, racing was scheduled to continue Sunday at Santa Anita, which is in the midst of its 23-day autumn racing meet, to be highlighted by the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 1-2.
Earlier Saturday, before Satchel Paige’s death, a group of jockeys and horse racing supporters gathered outside the track in support of the industry, which is under fire from animal-rights activists who say it should be banned. In the aftermath of the latest death, animal-rights activists announced they will hold a vigil for all the fallen horses at Gate 3 of Santa Anita Park, at the intersection of Huntington Drive and Holly Avenue West, on Thursday at 11:30 a.m.
Santa Anita — and the sport in general — has been under heavy scrutiny since the rash of deaths started garnering more media attention this year than in seasons past.
Racing at Santa Anita was halted for most of March while examinations were conducted on the track. They resumed April 4 after the state horse-racing board approved a series of safety measures and The Stronach Group announced a series of steps aimed at bolstering the safety of horses at the track, including restrictions on certain medications, requiring trainers to get advance permission 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.
The Stronach Group also announced a seven-member veterinary inspection team for the autumn meet. The team will “oversee every aspect of Santa Anita’s training and racing operation,” a company official said.
Before this weekend, the most recent death was Oct. 5, when a 5-year-old gelding named Ky. Colonel collapsed and died from an apparent heart attack.
That horse had last raced May 4, finishing second in a mile turf race at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, which like Santa Anita Park is owned by The Stronach Group. The layoff was longer than customary.
Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie 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.”
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