California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Tuesday said “enough is enough” and urged the Santa Anita race track to suspend activities for the rest of the season until officials can determine why so many horses have been dying at the popular venue.
“I continue to be troubled by the horse deaths at Santa Anita Park,” Newsom said in a statement. “Enough is enough. I am calling on the California Horse Racing Board to ensure that no horse races until they are examined by independent veterinarians and found fit to compete.”
Twenty-nine horses have died at the track so far this season, which began in December and will continue for six more race days, prompting widespread frustration and worry about the venue’s safety.
The California Horse Racing Board recommended that Santa Anita be closed temporarily last week for the season’s final races, but the track refused. The regulatory body does not have the authority to suspend a race or remove race dates, but a bill in the California legislature could grant it such power in the coming months.
“We are collectively working on behalf of everyone in the sport — grooms, hot walkers, jockeys, exercise riders, starters, trainers, owners, track managers and every horse wearing a bridle and a saddle — to reform and improve racing every day,” the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park, said in a statement earlier this week. “After extensive consultation among all partners, Santa Anita Park will stay open through the end of its meet to see these reforms through.”
Newsom’s call comes just a day after another high-profile California lawmaker, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), lambasted the track’s decision to remain open.
“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 senator, who also called for the Santa Anita track to suspend its races in April, also said that something seemed to be “seriously wrong” at the venue and that there was “no reason to wait for more dead horses.”
The Santa Anita track did temporarily halt racing for a short period in March to investigate the spate of deaths, eventually saying it would ban the use of drugs and whips on race days. But officials didn’t discover any anomalies in the venue itself that could have contributed to the deaths.
The Santa Anita track is scheduled to host the 2019 Breeders’ Cup in November. Newsom said that as preparations for that event continue, more must be done in order to “show the horse racing world that California puts safety first.”