21st Horse Dies at Santa Anita Racetrack Since the December Winter Meet

Posted by Shannon Ratliff
Santa Anita Horse Racing Track Death (1)

UPDATE: On March 5, 2019, Santa Anita Park issued a press release notifying the public that the track for live racing and training is closed, effective immediately. The statement notes that the one-mile main track will undergo extensive testing. The stake races set for this weekend at the park (Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, the Grade II San Felipe, and the Grade II San Carlos) will be rescheduled.

Chief Operating Officer of the Stronach Group, Tim Ritvo said,

"The safety, health, and welfare of the horses and jockeys is our top priority. While we are confident further testing will confirm the soundness of the track, the decision to close is the right thing to do at this time."

The original story below was published on March 5, 2019 at 5:23 p.m. 

Whether you're a fan of horse racing or not, when you read that the 21st horse recently died on a horse racing track, you pay attention. Wide Open Pets is currently following the story out of Santa Anita Park in California where the 21st horse died from injuries on the track. Lets Light the Way, the deceased 4-year-old horse, was injured during a morning workout. This marks the 21st equine fatality on the Santa Anita Racetrack from training or racing since December 26, 2018.

As the Daily Racing Form reports, Lets Light the Way experienced a "shattered sesamoid," per trainer Ron McAnally. Debbie McAnally was Lets Light the Way's owner. Ron McAnally told the publication that the filly was euthanized soon after. Tuesday's tragedy befell the second horse to be pulled up that day. The exercise rider on Lets Light the Way pulled her after the three-eighths pole. An hour before, Vyjack, a 9-year-old horse, was vanned off but returned to the stable.

The Santa Anita main track was closed on February 25 and 26 while inspection experts reviewed the track. Officials stated that no irregularities were found in track conditions. McAnally spoke to news outlets, like Bloodhorse, about what he believes is behind the recent string of breakdowns:

"My opinion is the problem with the bad weather. You can see on the news--some of the ground is separating and houses are falling off cliffs, almost like an earthquake... I loved that filly. I bought her at the sale--liked the way she walked. I feel as bad as anybody, but that's the first I had (this meet). I wanted to cry when we had to put her down."

Santa Anita's Main Track deemed “one hundred percent ready,” as training & racing will resume this Thursday. Read full press release here: http://bit.ly/MainTrack

Posted by Santa Anita Park on Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The weather may be to blame, but the coincidence of horse deaths is not lost on anyone, be it horse racing fan or animal activist. Since the track reopened at the end of February, one horse had already died: Eskenforadrink, another 4-year-old filly, per NBC Los Angeles. Now, Lets Light the Way makes two. Mick Peterson with the University of Kentucky said the racecourse was "100 percent ready" to perform.

As NBC Los Angeles reported, Peterson said last week of the track's reopening and racing surface,

"The ground-penetrating radar verified all of the materials, silt, clay and sand, as well as moisture content, are consistent everywhere on this track. This testing ensures all components, the 5-inch cushion, pad and base are consistent and in good order."

At the start of the week, track officials had stated that racing would be on hiatus after the heavy rains forecasted for this week, but the track remained opened for training. Now, PETA is calling for the closure of the track. The initial urging came after Eskenforadrink's death, but with this marking the 21st death, it's clear that PETA won't step down without a fight.

Other nonprofit organizations and animal-advocacy groups are calling for trainer investigations and vet records of the horses who died on the track during live racing. As KTLA reported, 20 deaths occurred at the track in 2017. There has been a slight increase in fatal injury rates from 2016 at the track according to the data. Santa Anita announced that Dennis Moore, the track superintendent in Arcadia from 2014 through 2018, is returning as a consultant.

The next live race day on the Thoroughbred horse racetrack is set for March 8, 2019 in Southern California. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Santa Anita is famous for hosting the Santa Anita Derby, the Santa Anita Handicap, and the Breeders' Cup in 2016. For now, though, horse lovers and racing fans alike are wondering just what is going on near San Gabriel Mountains.

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21st Horse Dies at Santa Anita Racetrack Since the December Winter Meet