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Santa Anita Park Reopens Main Track, But Just For Training

ARCADIA (CBSLA) – While Santa Anita Park remained closed to live racing for the sixth straight day in the wake of 21 horse deaths, the main track was reopened to training Monday.
Santa Anita’s main track reopened to limited training sessions beginning at 5 a.m., with horses only allowed to jog or gallop.
Experts examine the main track at Santa Anita Park on March 7, 2019. Racing was suspended indefinitely following the death of 21 horses going back to December of 2018. (CBS2)
“Santa Anita’s main track will remain closed for live racing until outside experts let us know that it is safe to resume racing,” The Stronach Group COO Tim Ritvo said in a statement Sunday. The Stronach Group owns the park.
Ritvo also announced a series of new protocols. They are:
— Santa Anita has 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.”
— 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.”
— A “House Rule” requiring “complete transparency with regard to veterinary records,” requiring that the records follow the horse through changes in trainers or owners.
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.
All this comes after 21 horses died while racing or training at Santa Anita since Dec. 26. Racing has been suspended since March 6 as experts work to determine what could be contributing to the problem. In comparison, during the same period of 2017-18, only 10 horses died at the track. Only eight died in 2016-17 and 14 in 2015-16.
The latest horse died on the morning of March 5; A 4-year-old filly named Let’s Light the Way suffered a shattered bone in her knee or foot during a workout and was forced to be euthanized.
Santa Anita’s training track — one of three on the grounds that include the main and turf tracks — reopened on Friday . The park noted that no horses have sustained any serious injuries on the training track so far this season.
According to the Los Angeles Times, nine of the deaths have occurred during training on the main dirt track, seven have occurred during racing on the main dirt track, and five have occurred on the turf track. None of the deaths have occurred on the training track.
The park’s former track superintendent, Dennis Moore, and Dr. Mick Peterson, director of the University of Kentucky’s Agricultural Equine Programs, have been jointly examining and monitoring the tracks. They are looking at whether the heavy rainfall which has fallen across the region over the past few months has factored into the death toll.
“I think the most important thing with this track right now is that we closely monitor compaction levels,” Moore said in a statement Saturday. “With all the rain, and this is the case in any wet winter, the ‘fines,’ silt and sand, can change very quickly and that affects the clays as well. Compaction, as well as dilution, of silt and sand, are all factors in the overall composition of the soil.
“More specifically, it’s been very helpful that we have not had any significant rain since this past Wednesday. We’ve been able to harrow, roto-till and aerate the soil throughout each day in order to get a uniform track profile and that’s helped Mick in his efforts. With all of this, the objective is to get the ideal composition throughout our six inch cushion.”
Two weeks ago, Santa Anita closed the main track for several days to have Peterson do an evaluation, this following the 19th horse death . The main track was closed to live racing from Feb. 25 through Feb. 28, but reopened to live racing on Friday, March 1.
When live racing resumed, two more horses, including Let’s Light the Way, died. A four-year-old filly named Eskenforadrink had to be euthanized after getting injured during a race on Saturday, March 2.
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.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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