ARCADIA (CBSLA) – Yet another horse died Thursday while working out at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, raising the death toll at the park to 22 so far this racing season.
A filly named Princess Lili B after she broke her front legs while doing a half-mile workout on the main track and had to be euthanized, Santa Anita officials confirmed to CBS2. Breeder and owner David Bernstein told CBS2 he named the horse after his granddaughter and has raised it since birth.
“She was just breezing and as she got close to the seven-eighth pole to pull up, she must have taken a funny step, and when she did, why, the ankle kind of broke a little bit, and the other ankle broke because they changed leads again,” Bernstein said.
While Santa Anita Park has remained closed to live racing, both the main and training tracks have been open for horse workouts. Training continued after Princess Lili B was hurt Thursday.
Twenty-two horses have died while racing or training at Santa Anita since Dec. 26. Racing has been suspended since March 6 as experts work to determine what could be contributing to the problem. In comparison, during the same period of 2017-18, only 10 horses died at the track. Only eight died in 2016-17 and 14 in 2015-16.
Santa Anita’s main track — one of three on the grounds that include the training and turf tracks — reopened Monday for workouts, with horses only allowed to jog or gallop. Santa Anita’s training track reopened March 8. The park noted that no horses have sustained any serious injuries on the training track this season.
Bernstein defended the tracks Thursday.
“The track’s excellent, I don’t have any problem with it, didn’t have any problem when they raced on it,” Bernstein told CBS2. “We were just careful when the weather was really bad, we jogged on the training track. We didn’t go out on the main track because it was closed. No, the track was fine.”
The animal rights group PETA was set to hold a protest outside the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office in downtown L.A. Thursday.
The park’s former track superintendent, Dennis Moore, and Dr. Mick Peterson, director of the University of Kentucky’s Agricultural Equine Programs, have been jointly examining and monitoring the tracks for the past week. They are looking at whether the heavy rainfall which has fallen across the region over the past few months has factored into the death toll. A Santa Clarita spokesperson told CBS2 that all the inspections determined the tracks to be in good condition.
Racing was also briefly suspended last month. Following the 19th horse death, Santa Anita closed the main track for several days to have Peterson do an evaluation. The main track was closed to live racing from Feb. 25 through Feb. 28, but reopened to live racing on March 1. Since then, three more horses have died.
According to the Times, ten of the deaths have occurred during workouts on the main dirt track, seven have occurred during racing on the main dirt track, and five have occurred on the turf track. None of the deaths have occurred on the training track.
On Sunday, the Stronach Group COO which owns the park, announced a series of new protocols as a result of the deaths. They are:
— Santa Anita has created the position of Director of Equine Welfare, which will be filled by an accredited veterinarian. The position will oversee “all aspects of equine well-being and will lead a Rapid Response team for injuries.”
— Trainers who want to put a horse through timed, high-speed training exercises will be required to ask for permission 24 hours in advance. Officials said the move will help track veterinarians identify “at-risk” horses by evaluating past performance, workout data and physical inspections.
— The track has hired additional veterinarians “to observe all horses entering and exiting the tracks each morning during training hours.”
— A “House Rule” requiring “complete transparency with regard to veterinary records,” requiring that the records follow the horse through changes in trainers or owners.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)