Well, no surprise to us about Santa Anita and the rate at which they kill racehorses. And they do not have this grisly distinction just in California.
A New York Times report released March 24, 2012, states:
Even some of America’s most prestigious tracks, including Belmont Park, Santa Anita Park and Saratoga Race Course, had incident rates higher than the national average last year, records show.
Yet the Breeders’ Cup have awarded their meet to Santa Anita for 2012 in face of these horrific statistics. They seemingly just do not care. Only a televised breakdown and death seems to capture their attention for more than a few moments.
But is it all about the surface?
Alan Zarembo, reporting for the Los Angeles Times writes:
Horses died while racing at Santa Anita Park at more than double the rate of horses at the state’s other three major thoroughbred tracks over the last fiscal year, according to state statistics.
The fatality rate at Santa Anita, in Arcadia, rose significantly after a return to a dirt running surface in 2010 after three years of using a synthetic track, the data show.
Track surfaces are one of several factors that experts say play a role in horses’ deaths — a longtime bane of the racing industry. A consensus is emerging among researchers that synthetic surfaces are safer than dirt for racing, though it is unclear whether the same is true for training. Training regimens, racing schedules, breeding practices and the use of medications are also thought to be important variables.
After reading and contemplating Jane Allin’s exceptional series of reports on horse racing many times, I conclude that the chief — not the only — problem the industry faces must be the drugs.
Mr. Zarembo reports in the same article:
Susan Stover, a professor of veterinary medicine at UC Davis who examines the broken bones of deceased California race horses, said that fatal injuries usually start as mild ones that went undetected.
“We need to be able to pick up those minor injuries,” Stover said.
Injury masking drugs is clearly the culprit. Removing the drugs is the best overall chance the horse racing industry will ever have of cleaning up its act, and surviving. In my opinion, only when that is accomplished will horse racing be able to isolate the other issues impacting racehorse health and safety, and protect not only the horses but the jockeys who go out every day and risk their lives.
Tragically, eliminating the drugs is what the horse racing industry is not just reluctant, but out and out refuses to do.
So debates like these on racetrack surfaces will continue, behind a fog of pharmaceuticals.