State regulators will hold a special meeting Monday to consider pulling the license of Los Alamitos Race Course after a rash of racehorse deaths this year at the Orange County facility.
The track was placed on probation by the California Horse Racing Board on July 10 and given 10 days to produce a plan to address the deaths or face having its license to hold races suspended.
At that time, at least 19 horses had died after suffering racing or training injuries in 2020, while another 10 had succumbed to gastrointestinal and other types of illnesses.
In the following two days, two more horses were fatally injured at the track, bringing the total for this year to 21.
“There has to be a thorough review” of why the horses died, said Gregory L. Ferraro, chairman of the CHRB. “I think there is a culture there with the veterinarians and trainers pushing the envelope.”
The chairman said Los Alamitos must come up with a “feasible plan” to address the issues related to the fatalities by Monday’s meeting.
“If they don’t come up with a plan in 10 days, we’re putting them on notice that we will suspend their license,” Ferraro said.
Dr. Rebecca Fitzgerald, who checks all of the horses at the track before and after the races, said she could not explain what caused the rash of fatalities.
“The horses in the cluster recently were not on any radar or suspicious in any way,” Fitzgerald said July 10. “They were not on a course I was worried about.”
Track officials released a broad outline of their plan on Friday. It includes enhancement of practices in six specific areas: training, pre-race procedures, an entry review panel, post-incident assessments, equine illness and recovery, and rules and conditions.
Ed Allred, owner and CEO of Los Alamitos Race Course, said the plan would be implemented immediately, but he also expressed his hope that the plan would be further improved through comments from the industry and the board.
Los Alamitos has been holding races without fans in attendance due to the coronavirus pandemic. At least five jockeys who raced at Los Alamitos on the Fourth of July weekend have contracted COVID-19.
Allred told the Los Angeles Times that he isn’t sure if his track is the source of the outbreak.
“This is all anecdotal because we don’t know,” he said. “We had some riders come in from back East that had a few mounts. We take temperatures before every race as part of our protocols.
“We’ve given the Orange County health department all the information we have. They’ve been telling us how to handle things.”