LA County DA will in­ves­ti­gate Santa Anita horse deaths


The Los An­ge­les County district at­tor­ney’s of­fice has as­signed in­ves­ti­ga­tors to work with the Cal­i­for­nia Horse Rac­ing Board to look into the sud­den rise of horse deaths at Santa Anita since the track started its meet­ing on Dec. 26.

The move comes af­ter 22 horses in­curred fa­tal in­juries re­sult­ing in eu­thana­sia at the Ar­ca­dia track. The district at­tor­ney’s of­fice has also been in con­tact with the Pasadena Hu­mane So­ci­ety, which has no­ti­fied the Ar­ca­dia Po­lice Depart­ment, ac­cord­ing to a source with di­rect knowl­edge of the sit­u­a­tion.

On March 1, PETA re­quested that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion be held into the horse deaths as vi­o­la­tions of Cal­i­for­nia an­i­mal cru­elty laws. In the three-page let­ter to Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, the an­i­mal rights group cited his­tor­i­cal data but noth­ing spe­cific about the lat­est deaths of horses.

In a news re­lease, PETA said that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion should tar­get train­ers and vet­eri­nar­i­ans.

There was no im­me­di­ate com­ment from the Horse Rac­ing Board. A Santa Anita spokesman re­ferred The Times to the or­ga­ni­za­tions that rep­re­sent train­ers and vet­eri­nar­i­ans.

The district at­tor­ney made the move on Thurs­day af­ter Princess Lili B, a 3-year-old filly, broke both front an­kles at the end of a four-fur­long work­out on the main dirt track. She was later eu­th­a­nized. It was the 10th death in dirt train­ing, adding to seven dur­ing dirt rac­ing and five dur­ing turf rac­ing.

There were no in­ci­dents Fri­day dur­ing 96 timed work­outs. Seventy-four horses worked on the main track and 22 on the train­ing track.

Af­ter Thurs­day’s death, the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in the Bay Area, an­nounced a se­ries of mea­sures on Thurs­day it said will make rac­ing safer. But in­stead of bring­ing a sense of calm to an in­dus­try on the precipice, it has been met with skep­ti­cism and a warn­ing it could lead to the de­struc­tion of horse rac­ing in Cal­i­for­nia.

Santa Anita, closed for rac­ing since March 5, is sched­uled to re­open on March 22.

The new mea­sures in­clude a race-day ban on Lasix, a di­uretic used to ease breath­ing and lessen the chances of bleed­ing from the lungs. Al­most ev­ery coun­try out­side the U.S. bans its use on race day. Ac­cord­ing to the Jockey Club, only 3.6 per­cent of the al­most 300,000 starts last year were made with­out Lasix.

John Sadler, trainer of last year’s Eclipse Award and Breeders’ Cup Clas­sic win­ner Ac­cel­er­ate, fears a lot of horses will be re­moved from Cal­i­for­nia if Lasix can’t be used. Sadler and other train­ers be­long­ing to the Cal­i­for­nia Thor­ough­bred Train­ers met at Santa Anita on Fri­day morn­ing to dis­cuss the lat­est changes. The Thor­ough­bred Own­ers of Cal­i­for­nia will have a con­fer­ence call on Satur­day af­ter­noon.

“This stuff is so new, I don’t know how it will be im­ple­mented or when,” Sadler said.

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