Crash During Race Leads To 23rd Horse Death At Santa Anita In Last Three Months

An empty track at Santa Anita.
Mario Tama / Getty Images

A crash between two horses at Santa Anita has led to the 23rd horse death at the California track in just the last three months, leading to growing calls among animal rights activists to shut down all racing at the embattled facility.

As ESPN reported, two horses collided during the $100,000 San Simeon Stakes on Sunday, causing Arms Runner to injure his right front leg. The horse was checked out by veterinarians, who decided that the animal would need to be euthanized.

Races continued for the day and jockey Martin Pedroza, who was on Arms Runner during the fatal fall, would go on to compete in other races. But the accident has drawn a sharp focus on safety at the track, which has seen a significant rise in horse deaths since the last week of 2018.

As ESPN noted, most of the horse deaths since December 26 have taken place on the track’s main dirt surface, but officials have not been able to determine what might be the underlying cause of the fatal accidents.

The track had been closed down as officials investigated the surface for any potential flaws, and the entire dirt surface was renovated before Santa Anita re-opened for races.

Officials had been cautious in re-opening the track after it was closed on March 5 for the investigation. It originally was only opened for practices, but on March 14 a 3-year-old filly named Princess Lili B suffered an injury while working out and had to be euthanized, officials told NBC News.

It came just days after the track was re-opened, and officials at the time said they were using caution in determining whether the track would be safe.

“Santa Anita’s main track will remain closed for live racing until outside experts let us know that it is safe to resume racing,” said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, which owns the track (via NBC News).

The company had instituted a number of changes, including introducing what was called an “equine welfare position” to oversee the well-being of horses and to respond to injuries. The track also hired additional veterinarians, including ones who monitor the horse training and determine whether the horses were showing any signs of stress or potential injury.

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Sunday’s death led to a new round of criticism for Santa Anita and calls from animal rights groups to close the horse racing track entirely. The company has not said if it has any plans to halt racing.