A racehorse is jogged on synthetic surface at Santa Anita. Image by Al Seib / LA times.

Santa Anita leads California in horse racing deaths

A racehorse is jogged on synthetic surface at Santa Anita. Image by Al Seib / LA times.
A racehorse is jogged on synthetic surface at Santa Anita. The track reverted to dirt and fatalities rose significantly. Image by Al Seib / LA times.

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.

Full Los Angeles Times article here >>

4 thoughts on “Santa Anita leads California in horse racing deaths”

  1. We really appreciate your comments on how many there are who care yet are afraid as you say. Our hearts go out to them as well. The way horse racing is run in the US, I wonder if the horses can ever have any semblance of a decent life until they get off the track. But the dangers that lurk there are even more ominous except for the lucky ones who are taken in by people who understand and love them.


  2. Very well written, there are people behind the action that work for the track in conjunction work for the trainers and owners ,that have to remain quiet or fear of job loss ,that do try when they are able to get the horses out that have a chance with rehab. Vet care,rest and p person who will love and provide for them to go on , retrained , for walk,trot,canter, local to that new owners, shows. I know because being near Belmont some horses do get out, because of the silent heroes that are able to.
    We have a friend who has a horse she got out the back door,the owner said to get rid of him he was not winning ,he is old now but has had a great life , his Daddy was “Affirmed” the last horse to win the triple crown.,he went on to do jr.hunter shows,
    And has been greatly loved and cared for by his person. One happy ending in an industry that has become a bloodsport. I hope that the entire horseraceing industry has the lid blown off it, bar none, the standardbreds ,the quarter horses,the horrors,I wonder if the Times would have the courage or permission from the Greed Mob, to even print some of the things that we know go on behind the curtin. Thanks to the voiceless Heros and Heroine’s behind the the curtain who have to endure seeing the truth, trying to save the ones they can before they are wrecked,showing no emotion while their insides are churning. Please we know you are there and there is limitation to how much you can do , but you are the watchers like angels , prayers for your strength and courage to carry on , help may be on it’s way .


  3. If indeed breeding has been sped up even for horses whose soundness is not proven, training is more suspect, pain is being masked far more often, there is little or no enforcement for bans at tracks and racing is under more stress in getting in dollars due to casino and slot encroachment–then the entire picture adds up to growing desperation for the public entertainment dollar. That has been the situation for a long while in racing. However, if racing can’t be cleaned up re these issues and in re to its cozy relationship to slaughter, racing is done. Fans and others have had it.

    The Thorobred is a magnificent horse. Without racing we would have never seen a Secretariat. That is not an excuse for racing’s abuses. Racing in its historical and correct form is a test of the very few mature champions. That is not what we have today. The money seems to have eaten up every concern. If that is all we have from racing, we don’t need it. Same goes for any endeavor involving man’s relationship with the horse. If we can’t do it right, let’s not do it.

    If and when racing ends, rehoming racehorses would have to be done and slaughter would have to end in order to make sure that all horses are safe, no matter the industry. Whether we have racing as it is or not, there have to be horsemen in it who deserve that title. I don’t see that in the big names in racing now. I see a whole lot of big egos as trainers and many excuses.

    There are workers in racing who are anti-slaughter, anti-cruelty and for reforms. If they speak out in public, they may lose their jobs.

    So, if we want to see specific horses who are worthy of being champions because of their own unique talents, that is one thing. Some horses are one of a kind and cherished and pampered. There is room for that. An entire nation can be inspired by a Man O War, a Citation or a Seabiscuit. There are very few like that in history. Most horses won’t make headlines but can do other jobs very well.

    Racing has to understand that the public is now educated, they wont tolerate abuse of racing’s workers or athletes (horses) and they won’t support a vicious and incompetent industry. That is not what fans pay for.

    There is no room for abuse, cruelty, killing and infinite excuses. That is not what people want nor what horsemen do. Until we have law and funding to enforce respect and care for each and every horse, we will see abuses and killing.

    Greed is not a sport and the horses have no choice as to how they are treated. They are the ultimate victims of our own actions. That remains true of every field in which horses are used and even in recreation.


  4. I too agree that the primary problem is the drugs. Also, I do not think that synthetic surfaces are better than turf. They should be trained on turf and race on turf. Turf is a far more forgiving surface for horses of all breeds that race. Horses are used to turf as they graze on it constantly. Nothing to adjust to. I still think that all the race tracks should be shut down using the RICO Act, they used that in California, but we see via the NYT expose’ that it is completely ineffective.



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