Despite Track Shutdown, Horses Keep Dying At Santa Anita

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On March 5, the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, Calif., announced that it was shutting down the track and indefinitely canceling races after it was revealed that 21 horses had died at the track over a two-month period. Santa Anita officials weren’t sure why so many horses were dying so quickly at their track, though the start of 2019 has been an especially rainy one, and it’s possible that a worse racing surface could have led to a rash of injuries.

Training resumed at the track on Monday, and a track consultant said that a racing was expected to resume in the near future. Unfortunately, a 22nd horse had to be euthanized today. Princess Lili B, a three-year-old filly, broke both of her front legs this morning at the end of a half-mile workout when she fell on the new surface. Despite supposedly extensive testing protocols and safety regulations, Princess Lili B fell on the same dirt surface that fatally injured the majority of the other horses. “She was perfect,” her owner David Bernstein said. “The work was slow because she never works fast. She didn’t have a lot of talent, she was just kind of a horse. But she was my horse.”

The Stronach Group, the company that owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, announced the adoption of a new “zero tolerance for race day medication” at their two tracks. The policy bans several drugs, institutes stricter testing, and requires horses to arrive on site earlier for monitoring.

We are taking a step forward and saying, quite emphatically, that the current system is broken. While the cause of the injuries on the racetrack might be varied, they have one thing in common: the industry has yet to do everything that can be done to prevent them. That changes today.


It’s unclear whether Santa Anita will shut down again in the wake of Princess Lili B’s death, though an official did tell Daily Racing Form that 186 other training runs were held without incident at Santa Anita over the past two days.

“Maybe I will regret this later,” [Stronach Group COO Tim] Ritvo said. “But that’s the decision I have to make. We think the track is in great condition. We have confidence in the track. Everybody has been bragging about it. So, we made a decision to continue to train. If we were to stop training at this point, then we would just never run again.”