A California senator is calling for the suspension of racing at Santa Anita Park until “the cause or causes” of the deaths of nearly two dozen horses are determined.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein requested the actions in an April 2, 2019, letter to Chuck Winner, chairman of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).

“The death of a single horse is a tragedy, but as a lifelong lover of horses, I’m appalled that almost two dozen horses have died in just 4 months,” according to the letter that was released by the California Democrat’s office.

Mike Marten, CHRB spokesman, said in a statement that Winner has not received the letter, but he is aware of it. Further, he said it is inappropriate to comment before speaking with Feinstein. Winner has said that the CHRB does not have the authority to suspend racing. However, the CHRB has scheduled a special meeting for Friday, April 12 at Santa Anita in which it will discuss reassigning race dates at the track.

The CHRB adopted rules that restrict the use of race-day medications and the use of a riding crop — often called a whip — except in cases in which the safety of jockeys or horses is in question. Feinstein asked whether other changes are being considered.

“While these are positive initial steps, please let me know whether the Board is considering other actions that have been proposed by trainers and animal welfare advocates, including the complete elimination of medications such as Lasix and the use of synthetic track surfaces,” according to the letter. “In your view, would these or other steps be reasonable measures to prevent horse injuries and death?”

Surface experts have examined the track several times for inconsistencies and have cleared it for racing each time.

Feinstein’s call for an investigation comes one day after Rep. Judy Chu called for a congressional hearing and investigation into the deaths at Santa Anita.

Racing is set to continue Thursday, April 4. The track’s biggest race — the Santa Anita Derby — is scheduled for Saturday. The purse is $1 million.


The scientific community has studied the effects that track surfaces have on the equine distal limb, as well as the forces that are placed upon it. Among those include unrelated research by teams led by Dr. Nathalie Crevier-Denoix and Dr. Renate Weller. To learn more about their research, please read:

• “How Ground Surfaces Influence Performance Horses

• “Why Equine Bones Break and Tendons Rupture