The infield training track at Santa Anita reopened for jogging and gentle gallops Friday, but the main track remained closed while experts continue inspecting the racing surface in the wake of 21 horse deaths at the facility since Dec. 26.
The track is in the midst of an unprecedented suspension of racing in response to the deaths, with former track superintendent Dennis Moore working with Mick Peterson of Racing Services Testing Lab being brought in to conduct a thorough analysis of the main track.
That inspection officially began Thursday. But Moore and Peterson said their review of the infield training track determined it was ready for light work by horses. None of the horse deaths at the facility involved injuries sustained on the training track.
Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of track owner The Stronach Group, told Daily Racing Form Friday morning more intense, yet still restricted, workouts may begin on the training track Monday. He also said jogging and galloping may be permitted on the main track beginning Monday, possibly expanding to regular workouts by next weekend.
“We’ll start jogging and galloping for a few days and look to start working next weekend, if everything is good,” Ritvo told Daily Racing Form.
Ritvo said that depending on the status of the track inspection and the weather, racing could potentially resume at the track on March 21 or March 22.
The most recent fatality at the track occurred Tuesday morning, when a 4-year-old filly named Lets Light the Way was injured during training and had to be euthanized. The horse’s death was the 21st at the park since Dec. 26. Between December and February the previous year, only 10 horses died at the track, compared with eight in 2016-17 and 14 in 2015-16.
The Tuesday death led to the suspension of all racing and training activity at the park to allow for the more thorough inspection of the racing surface.
Moore was Santa Anita’s track superintendent until he retired in December. He is now track superintendent for Del Mar and Los Alamitos race tracks.
The suspension of racing means some critical races that had been set for this weekend have been scrubbed and will need to be rescheduled.
Santa Anita was set to have five stakes races Saturday, including the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, in which Game Winner — who is undefeated in four starts and was named last year’s champion 2-year-old colt — was set to make his first 2019 start as he prepares for the Kentucky Derby.
Game Winner’s stablemate, Improbable, is undefeated in three starts and was also set for his 2019 debut in the same race for trainer Bob Baffert.
Other stakes races that had been set for Saturday were the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile, Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes and the China Doll Stakes.
One stakes race — the Santa Ysabel Stakes — was set for Sunday.
Some animal-advocacy groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have called for a halt to racing at the track and for investigations into the trainers and veterinary records of the horses that have died.
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