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Sen. Dianne Feinstein renews call for suspension of Santa Anita races

Vasilika and jockey Flavien Prat, left, compete in the Grade I, Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., Monday, May 27, 2019. They won the Grade I, $500,000 Gamely Stakes horse racing. The race was the same day that California Sen. Dianne Feinstein renewed her call to ban racing at the track. (Associated Press)
Vasilika and jockey Flavien Prat, left, compete in the Grade I, Gamely Stakes at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., Monday, May 27, 2019. They won the Grade I, $500,000 Gamely Stakes horse racing. The race was the same day that California Sen. Dianne Feinstein renewed her call to ban racing at the track. (Associated Press)
By John Cherwa Los Angeles Times

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., again is calling for racing to be halted at Santa Anita after three horses died in nine days.

“I once again call for an immediate moratorium on racing at Santa Anita,” Feinstein said in a statement. “We need a thorough investigation of practices and conditions at the track before any more races are held.”

There have been 26 equine fatalities since the track started its meeting Dec. 26. Two of the last three deaths were unusual injuries not generally associated with breakdowns. One horse, Commander Coil, broke a shoulder while galloping, a very low-risk activity. The track had gone six weeks without a fatality before the 3-year-old gelding suffered the catastrophic injury.

Spectacular Music, a 3-year-old gelding, was euthanized after an unusual pelvis injury while racing and Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding, died of a leg fracture after efforts to save him during surgery were unsuccessful Sunday.

There are only 12 more racing days at Santa Anita before Los Alamitos has a short meeting followed by the summer meeting at Del Mar. Closing day at Santa Anita is June 23. Racing returns to Arcadia on Sept. 26 for about a one-month meeting that concludes with the Breeders’ Cup.

The California Horse Racing Board and L.A. County district attorney’s office are conducting a joint investigation into the deaths. In a hearing in Sacramento last week, Rick Baedeker, executive director of the CHRB, said the investigation should be finished in about four months. Baedeker has also said that it is possible that the causation of the deaths may never be known.

“I believe we need to carefully review what medications horses are given, and under what circumstances as swell as take a close look at the issue of overrunning horses, which may be contributing to deaths,” Feinstein said.

“Tracks in the United States have significantly higher rates of death than tracks overseas. We need to determine what we’re doing wrong in this country and fix it. If we can’t, we need to consider whether horse racing has a future here.”

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