Horse Health

California track’s alarming spate of horse deaths prompts criminal probe

By Robert Gearty | Fox News

The deaths of the horses due to catastrophic injuries suffered in training and during races over the short period of time have alarmed horsemen and racing fans and led to a renewed focus on the racing industry’s long-standing problem with drugs–both legal and illegal.

Photo shows the empty home stretch at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif, where racing has been canceled as the track deals an alarming number of horse deaths, now at 22. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

The alarming number of horse deaths at a California racetrack has drawn the attention of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, which has announced it was conducting a criminal investigation with state regulators.

The DA investigation has been prompted by the deaths of 22 thoroughbreds at Santa Anita Park since Dec. 26 and is being conducted jointly with the California Horse Racing Board, according to a Reuters report Friday.

The deaths of the horses due to catastrophic injuries suffered in training and during races over the short period of time have alarmed horsemen and racing fans and led to a renewed focus on the racing industry’s long-standing problem with drugs–both legal and illegal. These substances can mask injuries a horse may have suffered due to the stress of running on spindly legs.

“We are cooperating fully with the District Attorney’s Office. We will not be providing any additional details about the ongoing, confidential investigation,” Shawn Loehr, CHRB chief of enforcement, said, according to KABC-TV.

Santa Anita spokesman Mike Willman said in a statement that the track welcomes the district attorney’s “sincere interest in solving these very serious issues that we’ve experienced over the past two months.”

Santa Anita in Arcadia has canceled racing in response to the breakdown deaths.

Some trainers have blamed the deaths on heavy rains which has affected maintenance of Santa Anita’s dirt track.

On Thursday, 3-year-old filly Princess Lili B snapped both front legs during a workout, forcing her to be put down.

After the breakdown, the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, announced that two prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs will be banned the day of a race and that jockeys will not be allowed to use a whip on a horse as they compete.

7 replies »

  1. Criminal? Absolutely! Could the fact that this breed has become inbred – breeding for speed – and not much else – for all these years? Then racing BABIES at 2 – which of course means they are training before they are 2 year olds. The racing industry has succeeded in destroying this breed. The only strange thing is that more tracks arent seeing the same numbers of dead horses.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maggie I could not agree with you more. Racing a two year old whose body has not fully developed is truly criminal. Plus the drugs they pump into their little bodies. The thoughts of that baby snapping both legs is just plain cruel and the pain must have been awful. Most disciplines do not even start hard training until at least three years old with most heavy training starting at five or so. The continued whipping of these horses when they are trying their best is horrid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hard training at three is still too young. When I was coming up, the routine was to halter break at 2 or 3, then turn them out to freely roam large pastures (preferably with hills, rocks, streams) until 4, then put a few rides on at 4 and turn them out again, then start into harder work at 5, no sooner, especially under saddle. Back then the use of round pens and hot walkers to exercise horses repeatedly on turns (twisting their limbs under load) was almost nonexistent, at least here in the West where I’m from.

      Inbreeding surely has exacted a price, as has the truth that anyone who can buy a horse and enter it into a race into the racing “business.” Recall here the owners of California Chrome (not knocking them, it’s just an example from many) were guys at a restaurant trying to decide whether to buy a sailboat or a racehorse, and opted for the horse. Their waitress came up with the colt’s name. He turned out to be a winner, but so so many do not. And they all have to eat, every day.


      • There was a hunter/jumper trainer at the barn where I boarded – she didnt START her colts or fillies until they were four – on the flat! Her babies stayed at home until that time then she would start bringing them to our barn to use the indoor – then take them back to her own barn till the next time. They were halter broke, would lead & handle – green broke. But nobody on their backs until they were four. When you consider these colts & fillies that have likely been ridden before they are two? Honestly – thats abuse! And then to run them on a track? As I said before – strange to think this is a “one off”. Have a feeling they are better at hiding whats happening – which is scary.


    • WooHoo… FINALLY.
      Let’s hope that the DA can take this down the home stretch! I’ll bet my money on those idiots sweating bullets right now at the track. Man, I would love to see them get just what they deserve! Can’t wait to see what the investigations turn out, if it’s all released eventually.
      This should be a defining and precedent – setting litigation that could make history… KARMA is a BITCH, Santa Anita.


    • One of the most shocking and disgusting displays of whipping brutality that I’ve ever seen was that nutcase maniac Velazquez on poor Vino Rosso in the 2018 Kentucky Derby… this little monster should have been indicted for bloody beating that courageous little horse into a frenzy that was so appalling, it’s a miracle that Vino Rosso survived it.
      God, I hate these idiots!


  3. ^^^This scene of Velasquez’s brutality could’ve been at the last TC race, the Belmont Stakes (Justify was the champion and the tortured Vino Rosso was 4th)…
    I couldn’t get the closeup video to replay, but that was a scene I will never forget! It just illustrates how this ‘jndustry’ lauds and applauds the egomaniacal abusers.


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