Saturday’s first race at California’s Los Alamitos Race Course left two horses dead, one of which belonged to a trainer who has been banned from racing at other parks due to prior horse deaths.
Mighty Elijah, a 4-year-old gelding, injured his left front leg and was taken off the track and euthanized while Into a Hot Spot, also 4, collapsed and died on the track. Stewards said Into a Hot Spot suffered internal injuries, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Mighty Elijah’s death has received particular attention because his owner, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, has been banned from participating in races at Santa Anita Park and Golden Gates Fields since late June.
The Stronach Group, which owns both of the race tracks, blamed Hollendorfer’s safety record for the decision.
“Individuals who do not embrace the new rules and safety measures that put horse and rider safety above all else will have no place at any Stronach Group racetrack,” it said in a statement at the time.
As of this weekend, eight of Hollendorfer’s horses have died this year ― four at Santa Anita, two at Golden Gate, one at Del Mar and one at Los Alamitos.
Kitty Block, the CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States, called these latest horse death “appalling” and criticized Hollendorfer’s ability to find new places to race despite his bans, and the fact that he has been sanctioned 19 times since 2006 for overmedication or use of illicit medications on horses, as CNN previously reported.
“No doubt due to the pressure from several [California] tracks, he will begin racing in Arkansas in 2020,” she said in a statement to HuffPost on Sunday. “Imagine if the NFL had different drug and medication rules for each of the 32 professional football stadiums. The sport would be chaos with no national standards or consistency. That’s what is the case with horseracing, and it’s unacceptable and needs to change.”
Ed Allred, chairman and chief executive at Los Alamitos, defended Hollendorfer at the time of the Stronach Group’s announced ban and said Hollendorfer was welcome at his track, which is located just northwest of Santa Ana.
“We do not feel he should be a scapegoat for a problem which derives from a number of factors,” Allred said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the park did not immediately respond to a question on whether this latest death could jeopardize its relationship with Hollendorfer.
An attorney for Hollendorfer reportedly told the Daily Racing Forum on Friday that his client will be seeking a preliminary injunction against Santa Anita Park over the race ban. Hollendorfer hopes to participate at Santa Anita’s Winter meet, which begins on Dec. 26.
Hollendorfer had been successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction against a similar ban imposed against him by the Del Mar track in July. The New York Horse Racing Association also briefly denied him the ability to race his horses at its tracks this summer.
There has been nationwide attention on horse racing since 37 horses died at the Santa Anita racetrack during its most recent racing season, which lasted from late December 2018 to June of this year.
The California Horse Racing Board has called the string of racing and training fatalities at the Santa Anita Park “unusual” and has launched an investigation into them. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is also conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths. The results of the racing board’s investigation are expected to be released this month.
Hollendorfer could not be immediately reached for comment on Sunday.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that the Los Alamitos Race Course is northwest of Santa Anita. It is in fact northwest of Santa Ana and southeast of Santa Anita.