Santa Anita Park Horse Death Toll Rises To 23

The famed racetrack outside Los Angeles has come under scrutiny in recent weeks following an unusually high number of equine deaths.

Another racehorse has died at Santa Anita Park, the famed thoroughbred racetrack outside Los Angeles, following a two-horse spill on Sunday.

The fatality brings the equine death toll at the track to 23 since Dec. 26 — an unusually high number at a facility once considered among the safest in the sport. 

Arms Runner, a 5-year-old horse owned by Rockingham Ranch, suffered a severe and ultimately fatal injury to his right front leg when he fell during the Grade 3 $100,000 San Simeon Stakes, NBC Los Angeles reported. The incident caused a trailing horse to also tumble, but that animal quickly rose to its feet without apparent injuries.

Santa Anita Park had just reopened on Friday after the deaths of 22 horses at the racetrack prompted a weekslong suspension. Prior to the resumption of races, The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, had announced that it was taking the unprecedented step of banning race-day medication as well as introducing several new regulations, like demanding complete transparency of all veterinary records, in an effort to protect racehorses from harm.

“The sport of horse racing is the last great sporting legacy platform to be modernized. If we expect our sport to grow for future generations, we must raise our standards,” Belinda Stronach, president of The Stronach Group, said in a statement.

She added that the new initiatives represented a “seismic shift” in how the sport was conducted.

“First and foremost, we must do right by the horse. When we do right by the horse, everything ― everything ― will follow,” Stronach said.

Racegoers breathed a “sigh of relief” on Friday after the first race day back ended with zero deaths, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“The public is probably a little shell-shocked at what’s going on. We’ve gotten a lot of bad exposure from everywhere. We’re going to need to go a long time without having something horrible happen,” a horse owner told the Times as she watched the races.

Arms Runner died two days later.

Most of the equine deaths at Santa Anita since December ― including Arms Runner’s ― have occurred on the dirt surface of the track, The Associated Press reported. However, when officials inspected and renovated the dirt surface last month, they said they found no issues with it. 

Santa Anita’s equine death toll was significantly higher this year than in years prior. From December 2017 to February 2018, 10 horses died at the racetrack, per NBC Los Angeles. Over the same period in 2016-2017, the toll was eight.

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