ARCADIA (AP) — Another horse has died at Santa Anita, making it 20 fatalities at the racetrack since its winter meet began on Dec. 26.
Animal rights activists gathered near the track in Arcadia on Sunday. At least a dozen protesters held signs that read “Your bets cause horses’ deaths,” ‘’How many have to die!” and “It’s not sport, it’s violence.”
Santa Anita officials announced Sunday that because of heavy rain forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, racing won’t resume until Friday. Normally, racing would be held on Thursday. The track will remain open for training each day of the upcoming week.
The latest horse death occurred Saturday during the third race when 4-year-old filly Eskenforadrink was in the lead of a $16,000 claiming race. Jockey Geovanni Franco pulled her up with an injury to her front leg. The filly was vanned off the track and later euthanized.
The dirt surface on Saturday was rated sloppy from rain, but it’s unknown whether the track condition played any role in the horse’s injury.
Santa Anita had 11 1/2 inches of rain and unusually cold temperatures in February.
Horses resumed training and racing on Thursday and Friday without incident. Training was canceled on Saturday because of rain.
Earlier in the week, Santa Anita closed for two days for extensive testing of its surface. Mick Peterson, a soil and safety expert from the University of Kentucky, proclaimed the track “100 percent ready” to resume racing.
Peterson said radar verified all of the materials, silt, clay and sand, as well as moisture content, were consistent everywhere on the track. Its dirt surface was peeled back 5 inches and reapplied.
Of the 20 deaths, seven have occurred during a race on the dirt, five have occurred on turf and eight came during training on dirt.
The number of deaths since the winter meet began has drawn both concern and criticism.
Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, issued a statement saying, “We consider the safety and security of the athletes, both equine and human, who race at our facilities to be our top priority. All industry stakeholders, including our company, must be held accountable for the safety and security of the horses and we are committed to doing just that.”
The track will host a major day of racing on Saturday, including the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap for older horses and the $500,000 San Felipe Stakes for 3-year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls.