Twenty horses at a single racetrack in California have died in the past two months, leading to concerns about environmental conditions at the facility but a soil test has turned up nothing alarming, according to the track officials.
Last weekend, a four-year-old filly named Eskenforadrink was put down after suffering an ankle injury while leading the pack at a race.
The track had just reopened after closing for days for a soil inspection.
“We love these animals. We don’t send them out there thinking something bad is going to happen, and it’s stressful,” trainer Bob Baffert told ABC Los Angeles station KABC.
Park officials told KABC on Sunday racetrack conditions were good and that 390 horses completed workouts from Thursday to Saturday without incident, but that didn’t stop animals rights protesters from showing up to the track and urging a shut down of the faclilty because of the “ongoing danger to horses and riders from dangerous racing practices.”
Track officials brought in a soil expert from the University of Kentucky to conduct extensive ground radar testing which Santa Anita said in a statement confirms soil samples are consistent throughout the one mile oval. Mick Petersen at the U of Kentucky’s Agricultural Equine Programs, deemed the track “one hundred percent ready.”
In addition to soil samples and a thorough examination of the track’s cushion, pad and base, which was conducted by Peterson and Santa Anita Track Superintendent Andy LaRocco, Peterson employed ground-penetrating radar to ensure uniform consistency throughout the one mile oval.
The ground penetrating radar verified all of the materials, silt, clay and sand, as well as moisture content, are consistent everywhere on this track,” said Peterson on Wednesday afternoon. “This testing ensures all components, the five-inch cushion, pad and base, are consistent and in good order.
“All of the testing and research we’ve done, worldwide, clearly indicates soundness is multi-factorial,” said Peterson. “We must approach this challenge with the knowledge that this is always a process and we need to always strive to get better and that no matter how good the results may be, we must get better.
“If there are issues, they’re going to be addressed. The safety of the horses, jockeys and exercise people is our number one priority and always will be.”
Tim Ritvo, Chief Operating Officer, The Stronach Group, also addressed the current situation.
“At the Stronach Group, we consider the safety and security of the athletes, both equine and human, who race at our facilities, to be our top priority,” said Ritvo. “All industry stakeholders, including our company, must be held accountable for the safety and security of the horses and we are committed to doing just that.”
But not everyone was happy with the outcome to reopen the track.