Georgia thoroughbred owners may wish to reconsider plans for exercising or racing at Santa Anita Park. Numerous reports of horses dying mysteriously there led California Governor Gavin Newsome to sign Senate Bill 469 authorizing the state’s horse racing board to suspend track licenses. As reported by CBS Sports, the bill allows the board to terminate any thoroughbred race if a track presents conditions that may cause harm to either a horse or its jockey.
Since December of 2018, at least 30 horses suffered fractures while at Santa Anita Park. The injuries were severe enough to eliminate the possibility of rehabilitation, and veterinarians had no choice but to put the animals down. The direct cause of the injuries is not yet entirely known; the equine autopsies are still under investigation. Many industry officials, however, suggested to The New York Times that the thoroughbreds’ injuries may have resulted from adverse weather conditions, performance-enhancing substances or possible negligence on the part of the track.
Santa Anita Park’s ownership is alleged to have overscheduled its racing events in an effort to generate higher profits. Some trainers claimed they were pressured into running their horses without first providing them with adequate rest, and competitions were purportedly held during atypically cold weather and in heavy rains. The park was also alleged to be lacking in sufficient upkeep to properly maintain its track surface. At-risk and unfit thoroughbreds are suspected to have competed on poor turf conditions, which motivated regulators to change the law to provide for the suspension of a race if track conditions might cause harm.
Trainers and owners may wish to employ some extra due diligence to determine if a park’s staff is lacking in maintaining a safe environment. The upkeep of the track may be an issue worthy of being looked into closely. It might also be justified to hold the track’s owners liable if their negligence results in any harm to a well-cared for thoroughbred.