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Santa Anita Park has come under increased scrutiny after 23 horses have died since Dec. 23, 2018. There were 20 total deaths during Santa Anita’s 122 racing days in 2017, according to the Jockey Club.
The park closed and was reopened for limited training only. Officials began testing the soil at various parts on the track using biomechanical pressure sensors to gauge the level of concussion the limb might experience. However, no direct correlation has been made between track surface and the deaths.
Officials say they are taking into account all possible causes and addressing the changes that need to be made. The extreme precipitation that southern California has experienced this season might be a contributing factor but can’t be fully blamed, according to a press release by The Stronach Group, which owns the park. Another horse died during a limited training period, prompting a more aggressive approach in the form of rule changes.
In an open letter from The Stronach Group, Chairman and President Belinda Stronach declared zero tolerance on riding crops and medication on race day at Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields. However, the use of race day medication is slowly being phased out over several race seasons and the use of riding crops is subject to a public comment period and board approval before being instituted permanently. Riding crops were used during races Friday, April 12, according to the Jockeys’ Guild.