Santa Anita Park will conclude its autumn racing meet Sunday, one day after a 4-year-old gelding running in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic became the fifth horse to die during the 23-day meet, and the 37th since December.
Mongolian Groom was euthanized following a serious fracture to his left hind limb in the stretch of the 1 1/4-mile race on dirt.
Mongolian Groom “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.
Mongolian Groom was third horse to die at Santa Anita Park in nine days and 37th since December, which has sparked controversy among animal rights activists and efforts to improve horse safety.
Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said the latest horse death at Santa Anita once again points to the need for stronger regulation of horse racing.
“The death of Mongolian Groom and the shockingly routine deaths of horses at the Santa Anita Park racetrack are a foreboding reminder that horseracing is a poorly regulated industry in urgent need of reform,” Block said in a prepared statement. “American horseracing is broken and its equine athletes are paying the price with their lives.
“The decision to hold the Breeder’s Cup at Santa Anita before the results of investigations into the spate of recent deaths was ill advised. We believe that a suspension of racing at this track is warranted until the investigations of those deaths, and now the death of Mongolian Groom, are completed and released.”
Block said the Humane Society remains committed to legislation known as the Horseracing Integrity Act, which the organization believes would improve the care and safety of race horses.
“This crucial bill will ban race day medication, substantially increase out-of-competition testing, and create a national and uniform set of medication policies,” she said. “Its passage will result in fewer racehorse deaths and rid the sport of those who place winning above animal welfare. The unfortunate reality is, these incidents are not isolated and will keep happening unless industry reforms and regulations are implemented and enforced.”
Meanwhile, renowned veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage will conduct an independent evaluation of Mongolian Groom.
As mandated by the California Horse Racing Board, the horse will undergo a necropsy at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.
The fatality came in the 14th and final race of the otherwise injury-free two-day $28 million Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which was held for a record 10th time at Santa Anita.
Mongolian Groom won three times in 17 career starts, finished second twice and third three times, earning $579,141. He won his final start before the Breeders’ Cup, the Grade 1 Awesome Again Stakes Sept. 28 at Santa Anita.
“The death of Mongolian Groom is a loss to the entire horse racing community,” the Breeders’ Cup statement said. “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.”
Breeders’ Cup CEO and President Craig Fravel said Wednesday that “everything humanly possible” was done to try to prevent horses from being injured during the event.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, sent a letter to Rick Baedeker, executive director of the California Horse Racing Board, on Wednesday, writing that the Breeders’ Cup “presents a critical test for the future of horse racing in California and in the United States.”
“If horse racing cannot be conducted in a safe and humane manner that protects the life and safety of horses and jockeys, it may be time to reexamine the future of this sport in our state and in our country,” Feinstein wrote.