Santa Anita won’t close despite latest horse death

The California Horse Racing Board recommended that Santa Anita Park suspend racing for the remainder of the track’s season after another horse died on Saturday.

Santa Anita, the CHRB said, declined that request.

“Under current law, the California Horse Racing Board does not have the authority to suspend a race meet or remove race dates from a current race meet without the approval of the race track operator or without holding a public meeting with 10 days public notice,” the CHRB said in a statement. “The Chairman, Vice Chairman and the Executive Director recommended to Santa Anita management that they suspend racing for the seven remaining race days but that they allow horses to continue to train during that period. This would provide the industry more time to fully implement announced safety initiatives and perhaps additional ones.

“It is our understanding that Santa Anita management, after consultation with certain other industry stakeholders, believes that for a variety of reasons, the future of California racing is best served by continuing to race.”

Santa Anita has faced scrutiny since a rash of horse deaths began on Dec. 26, 2018. The 28th fatality, Formal Dude, fractured his pelvis Saturday after taking a bad step nearing midstretch during the final race on the card, a $30,000 maiden claiming race. He was vanned off the track and euthanized later that night, according to multiple reports.

Formal Dude last raced on May 10 and was the morning favorite in the one-mile dirt race.

Last month, California governor Gavin Newsom announced his support for legislation in the California Senate that would allow the CHRB to suspend horse racing licenses. The Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial in late May calling for Santa Anita to stop racing.

“The recent horse fatalities in California are unacceptable,” Newsom said in a statement in May. “We must hold the horse racing industry to account. If we can regulate horse race meets, we should have the authority to suspend licenses when animal or human welfare is at risk.”

The first 22 horse deaths led Santa Anita to close on March 5, not reopening until March 29. Another horse died days after the track reopened, and then Santa Anita went almost two months with no known equine fatalities. Since May 18, five more horses have died, including Formal Dude on Saturday.

An email sent by ESPN to officials at Santa Anita Park seeking comment was not immediately returned.

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