California racetrack, site of equestrian sports at 1984 Olympics, shuts down racing after recent horse deaths

Credit : Santa Anita Park (Facebook)

Wednesday 06 March - 10h00 | Ian Clayton

California racetrack, site of equestrian sports at 1984 Olympics, shuts down racing after recent horse deaths

Santa Anita Park, a historic Los Angeles-area racetrack which was the primary site of show jumping, dressage and eventing at the 1984 Olympics, indefinitely postponed racing Tuesday after the latest of more than 20 horse fatalities on-site since the winter season began in late December. According to news reports, the most recent death happened this week when a filly was euthanized after injuring her leg while training.

 - California racetrack, site of equestrian sports at 1984 Olympics, shuts down racing after recent horse deaths

Credit : Santa Anita Park

“Something is drastically wrong. I’ve been around a long time and have never seen this,” 82-year-old Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes-winning trainer Art Sherman told the Los Angeles Times. “There’s something wrong in the foundation, or something is not right. The only way to find out is shut it down.”

As various media outlets have reported, some horses have died at Santa Anita while racing on the dirt oval in recent weeks, others during turf races, and yet more while training. Writing in the Washington Post, Des Bieler notes that some experts are “pointing to the region’s unusually wet and cold weather this winter as a possible cause.”
 
“We think that [rain] could definitely contribute even though our experts are telling us not,” Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, told the Associated Press. “The tracks out here are built not for weather like that.” 

“I think the weather has a lot to do with it,” added Ron McAnally, the trainer of the horse euthanized Tuesday, to Bieler. “Santa Anita has been a wonderful track, and they’ve done all kinds of tests. I don’t know what else they could do. It’s a fluky thing.”

Animal rights activists have fiercely criticized the racetrack, calling for it to be closed and further investigated. In its latest Facebook post on February 28, Santa Anita had linked to a press release declaring that the main track had been deemed to be “one hundred percent ready.” 

As Bieler notes, Santa Anita is set to host the Breeders’ Cup in November, the 10th time the event would be held at the track in Arcadia, California. Hollywood celebrities who owned horses that competed there include Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Al Jolson and Bing Crosby, he adds, and legendary champion racehorses like Affirmed, John Henry and Seabiscuit raced there – the latter horse’s biographical movie also having been filmed at the track. Photo below: Santa Anita Park. 

 - California racetrack, site of equestrian sports at 1984 Olympics, shuts down racing after recent horse deaths


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