Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has called for the immediate suspension of racing at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia after two more horses died this weekend, saying there was “no reason to wait” for more animals to perish.
“Santa Anita should have suspended racing in March after 23 horses died over a three-month stretch to open the season,” Feinstein said in a statement on Monday. “Now that six more horses have died in just 23 days ― 29 total deaths this season ― the track should suspend racing immediately.”
The racetrack has faced heavy criticism over the spate of horse deaths this year, but so far has resisted all calls for a shutdown. The venue did halt racing in March for a short period to investigate and eventually banned the use of drugs and whips on race days, but it did not discover any anomalies in the track itself that could have contributed to the deaths.
Although the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) recommended that the Santa Anita track suspend its activities for the remaining six race days of its season last week, the racetrack refused. The regulatory board does not have the authority to suspend a race or remove race dates itself “without the approval of the racetrack operator or without holding a public meeting with 10 days public notice.”
“It is our understanding that Santa Anita management, after consultation with certain other industry stakeholders, believes that for a variety of reasons, the future of California racing is best served by continuing to race,” the CHRB said in a statement last week.
It could be possible for the CHRB to gain the authority to suspend or move races in the future, The Los Angeles Times reported, and there is a bill in the California legislature that would allow the body to issue a temporary closure to a track. But it could be months before such authority was granted.
Feinstein, who also called for the Santa Anita track to suspend its races in April, said something appeared to be “seriously wrong” at the venue and no one seems to know what it is.
“We need to take a long pause and do a thorough review of Santa Anita: the track, the practices employed there, what medicines are used, how horses are trained,” Feinstein stated. “We need to get to the bottom of what’s going on and why so many horses are dying. With only two weeks left in the racing season, there’s no reason to wait for more dead horses. Terminate racing at Santa Anita and do it now.”
At the time of this writing, the Santa Anita racetrack is still scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup in November.