A horse was injured and euthanized Thursday at Santa Anita Park, becoming the 22nd equine to die at the facility since the racing season began on Dec. 26.
The injury occurred about 8 a.m. According to the Daily Racing Forum, the horse was Princess Lili B, a 3-year-old filly. She broke both front legs, the publication reported..
“We’re just perplexed by what has happened, and devastated,” Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer for Santa Anita owner The Stronach Group, told Fox 11.
“The track — we have complete confidence in the track, with the greatest track crew in America, and it’s just a devastating time for all of us,” Ritvo said.
Ritvo said the 3-year-old filly will be sent in for necropsy, but it was too early to know why the injury occurred.
“The rider said the filly felt fine, and then all of a sudden, just went bad,” Ritvo said.
Officials are targeting March 22 as the date to resume racing at the famed track, while some animal-rights activists have said changes being instituted amid the rash of horse deaths don’t go far enough to protect the animals.
The main track at Santa Anita was open for limited training this week, but it remains closed for racing indefinitely as officials work on implementing a series of safety protocols announced in the aftermath of the earlier deaths.
Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is asking the industry to do more.
“Santa Anita’s new procedures acknowledge that the deaths of 21 horses” — the 21 that died before Thursday –“were never just about the rain and a bad track. They’re a step in the right direction — but they don’t go far enough,” Guillermo said.
“Reviews of horses’ past races and workout times, along with more physical examinations, should help to reveal when animals are being medicated to mask injuries,” Guillermo continued. “PETA has long advocated for mandating that veterinary records stay with horses throughout their lives, which is crucial for ensuring that injuries aren’t hidden. But now, the entire racing industry must own up to the bloodbath on racetracks across the country. Medications must be banned entirely in the week before a race, beating horses with a whip to push them ever harder must stop, and racing injured horses just to give bettors options to put money on must be prohibited. These animals aren’t machines to be driven mercilessly, and the public has joined PETA in making it clear that it won’t support this abuse.”
Santa Anita officials responded to PETA’s concerns with the following statement:
“Regrettably, injuries occur in every sport, and horse racing, where hundreds of races take place every day around the world, is not immune. Santa Anita has taken industry-leading safety measures to prevent injuries and ensure our equine athletes are provided a safe and healthy environment in which to compete.
“At The Stronach Group, we love horses and we are in this sport because we love horses. We are and will continue to take steps necessary to ensure the health and well-being of all of our athletes, equine and human.”
Between December and February of the previous year, 10 horses died at Santa Anita, compared with eight in 2016-17 and 14 in 2015-16.
The track averaged about 50 deaths per year from 2008-18, according to data from the California Horse Racing Board.
The unusually large amount of rain that has fallen over the Southland this winter has been mentioned as a possible factor in explaining the surge in deaths.
The new protocols, which the owners of the famed racetrack announced Friday, are as follows:
— The creation of an equine-welfare position.
— Trainers who want to put a horse through timed, high-speed training exercises will be required to ask for permission 24 hours in advance. Officials said the move will help track veterinarians identify “at-risk” horses by evaluating past performance, workout data and physical inspections.
— The track has hired additional veterinarians “to observe all horses entering and exiting the tracks each morning during training hours.”
— The track is also instituting a “House Rule” requiring “complete transparency with regard to veterinary records,” requiring that the records follow the horse through changes in trainers or owners.
— Santa Anita also created the position of Director of Equine Welfare, which will be filled by an accredited veterinarian. The position will oversee “all aspects of equine well-being and will lead a Rapid Response team for injuries.” That team will investigate all factors contributing to the injury and share its findings with the public, track officials said.