Following Death of 19th Horse in Last 2 Months, Santa Anita Race Main Track Closed for Training

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Santa Anita will reopen for training and racing on Thursday after its main track was closed for evaluation in the wake of 19 horse deaths during the winter meeting.

The most recent death was Charmer John, a 3-year-old gelding who went down during training Monday, suffered a catastrophic injury to his left front fetlock and was euthanized, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The main track was closed for training on Monday and Tuesday so moisture content and soil consistency below the surface could be checked.

The track’s dirt surface was peeled back 5 inches on Tuesday so its base could be thoroughly examined. The track has had 11½ inches of rain and unusually cold temperatures this month.

Santa Anita officials brought in Mick Peterson, a University of Kentucky track safety expert, to review the subsurface and surface data. He already evaluates soil samples from the track on a monthly basis.

Santa Anita has formed a committee of California Horse Racing Board commissioner Alex Solis, a veteran trainer and jockey and a member of the track’s management team to evaluate the data and monitor feedback from trainers, jockeys and exercise riders.

There have been 19 fatalities during the current meeting that began Dec. 26 compared with seven last year. Last Saturday, Breeders’ Cup winner Battle of Midway sustained a fatal injury during a workout.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement that the animal rights group was planning a protest but canceled it after meeting with track representatives who “pledged to take definitive steps, including extending the review of medication records to horses who are in training — and not just before races.”

The organization said it will continue to meet with Santa Anita officials in the coming days.

Live racing is expected to resume as scheduled on Thursday.

Editor’s note: A previous headline incorrectly indicated the park was closed. A spokesman for Santa Anita said on Tuesday afternoon that the main track will reopen for racing and training on Thursday.

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