Horse racing deaths: Third horse in 9 days dies at Santa Anita Park in Southern California

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A 26th horse was euthanized Sunday at a Southern California track after suffering a leg injury during a race. He was the third horse to die at Santa Anita Park in the last nine days. Officials told CBS Los Angeles the latest horse to be put down was Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding.

The track had gone several weeks without a fatality.

The horse was taken off the course in a van and left overnight in his stall with a splint on his injured leg, according to The Los Angeles Times, which first reported Kochees’ death. The Times said surgeons weighed an operation, but learned Kochees had lost blood flow to the leg and the decision was made to euthanize.

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Mike Willman, Santa Anita’s director of publicity, confirmed those details, but maintained that “every effort was made to save the animal.”

PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo issued a statement calling for racing to be suspended at tracks across California “until the ongoing investigation by the district attorney is complete and the new rules have been strengthened.”

“Nothing short of a zero-fatality rate is acceptable,” Guillermo said.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California also called for a moratorium on racing at the track as well as an investigation. “I believe we need to carefully review what medications horses are given and under what circumstances as well as take a close look at the issue of overrunning which may be contributing to deaths,” Feinstein said.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey has since announced the creation of a task force to investigate the deaths.

Santa Anita horse racing deaths
Animal-rights advocates protest beside the entrance gate at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, Calif., on April 6, 2019.

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Santa Anita, which began its racing season Dec. 26, was closed to racing for most of March while authorities studied the racing surface for possible causes contributing to the deaths. Some believe this year’s unusual level of rain may have played a role in the fatalities.

Santa Anita’s owners brought in national experts to conduct days of testing on the track’s soil, but no problems were found.

In early April, Santa Anita officials announced a series of new measures to help bolster the safety of horses at the track including restrictions on certain medications, requiring trainers to get permission in advance before putting a horse through a workout and investing in diagnostic equipment to aid in the early detection of pre-existing conditions.

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