One day after the track reopened for limited training, another horse was euthanized after breaking both its front legs at Santa Anita Race Park. The young horse’s death set in motion a new wave of rules, including the banishment of whips and medications on race day, according to the Washington Post.
In an open letter from The Stronach Group, Chairman and President Belinda Stronach declared zero tolerance on whips and medication on race day at Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields.
The enforcement of these rules makes these Thoroughbred tracks the first in North America to follow the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) standards.
“This mandate encompasses a complete revision of the current medication policy to improve the safety of our equine and human athletes and to raise the integrity of the sport,” the open letter says.
After the 22 deaths in a short amount of time, The Stronach Group is done waiting for the industry to force change. Some of their rule changes include the banishment of Lasix; increasing the ban on legal therapeutic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), joint injections, shockwave therapy and anabolic steroids; complete transparency on all veterinarian records; significantly increasing out-of-competition testing; increasing the time required for horses to be on-site before a race; investment by The Stronach Group in diagnostic equipment to aid in early detection of preexisting conditions; and allowance of therapeutic medication only with qualified veterinarian diagnosis.
In addition to addressing substance abuse, The Stronach Group has placed a ban on whips, noting that although they believe jockeys do not mean harm, the change is still necessary.
“A cushion crop should only be used as a corrective safety measure,” the open letter says. “We will be continuing our daily conversations with industry stakeholders to further define these transformative guidelines. But make no mistake: these changes will be implemented.”
In addition to making the above changes, soil testing is still occurring at the track level as no direct correlation has been made between the sudden slew of deaths and a cause. Officials are taking into account all possible causes and addressing the changes that need to be made.
Track testing had been the first measure of investigation after the park closed March 5, 2019, and will continue to be tested alongside the new regulations. Despite the new death, the track remains open for limited training.