Mongolian Groom Saturday became the 37th horse since December to die at Santa Anita Park after suffering a leg injury in the biggest race of the weekend — the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic — despite the event CEO’s assurance that “everything humanly possible” had been done to ensure that no horses would be hurt.
The 4-year-old gelding didn’t make it through the home stretch of the 1 1/4-mile race — the 22nd race of an otherwise injury-free weekend at Santa Anita, as it hosted its record 10th Breeders’ Cup World Championships. A green screen was placed around him to obscure the view of a crowd of nearly 68,000 people, and he was rushed off the track in a horse ambulance.
“Mongolian Groom sustained an injury in the Breeders’ Cup Classic today and was immediately attended to by an expert team of veterinarians, led by board-certified veterinary surgeon Dr. Ryan Carpenter,” according to a statement from Breeders’ Cup Ltd.
“During their evaluation at the equine hospital at Santa Anita, they observed a serious fracture to his left hind limb. Radiographs were taken and a complete evaluation was performed. Given the extent of the injury, Dr. Carpenter, in consultation with (a team of doctors) recommended humane euthanasia of Mongolian Groom,” the statement said.
Earlier in the week, veterinary team leader Debbie Lamparter’s claimed, “No horses racing anywhere have been more examined or observed than these horses.” Lamparter said they had done their “utmost for the safety of these racehorses.”
Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel told reporters at the time, “I think we have done everything humanly possible to prevent anything from happening.”
Fravel is expected to leave his post with the Breeders’ Cup sometime after this weekend’s event to become CEO of racing operations for Santa Anita’s parent organization, The Stronach Group.
The Breeders’ Cup statement also said, “The death of Mongolian Groom is a loss to the entire horse racing community. Our equine and human athletes’ safety is the Breeders’ Cup’s top priority. We have worked closely with Santa Anita leading up to the World Championships to promote enhanced equine safety.”
“Santa Anita has implemented numerous industry-leading reforms to enhance the existing health and safety measures with the intent of providing a safe racing environment. In addition, Breeders’ Cup always observes the most thorough up-to-date medication practices and restrictions, testing protocols, equine security and surveillance program, veterinary exams, injury management protocols and racing surface testing.
The statement said the measures were in place to “ensure our athletes are racing under the safest and most transparent conditions possible.”
It also announced that renowned veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage will conduct an independent evaluation.
The Breeders’ Cup’s board of directors had unanimously agreed in late June not to move the location of what is one of the world’s most prestigious series of races even after the deaths of 30 horses forced the closure of the park for about three weeks in March. Six more horses subsequently died before this weekend’s event.
Racing fans were met with dueling protests outside the track from protesters decrying the recent spate of horse deaths, as well as a group of counter-protesters who support the sport.
Earlier in the week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, called the weekend “a critical test for the future of horse racing in California and in the United States” and said it may be time to re-examine the sport’s future if it couldn’t be conducted in a “safe and humane manner.”
In the hours leading up to the races, four Breeders’ Cup entrants — Mile contenders Suedois and Bolo, Filly & Mare Turf contender Fleeting and Sprint contender Imperial Hint — were scratched early Saturday from the races following veterinary inspections.
The California Horse Racing Board recently announced it will issue a report in December on the racing and training fatalities during Santa Anita Park’s winter/spring seasons that could provide strategies to avoid similar equine injuries.
Veterinary personal, safety stewards and others involved in track safety have been accumulating and analyzing the information to come to an understanding of how each death occurred in order to identify any common characteristics or causes and develop strategies for preventing similar injuries in the future, according to Mike Marten, the public information officer for the California Horse Racing Board.
Board investigators have issued more than 120 subpoenas for records and are continuing to review all cases for any CHRB rule or criminal violations, Marten said.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has undertaken a parallel investigation.
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