In response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s direction, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) and The Stronach Group (TSG), owner of Santa Anita Park, will implement enhanced safety measures and reviews to further protect horses at Santa Anita.
Led by CHRB Equine Medical Director Dr. Rick Arthur, DVM, and Chief Steward Darrel McHargue, a five-member team will provide additional review of horses’ medical, training and racing history. This team consists of independent CHRB veterinarians and stewards, empowered to scratch horses that do not appear fit to run.
Specifically, the horse safety review team will utilize a new, comprehensive evaluation rubric to determine if each individual horse is at elevated risk of injury before racing. These criteria will include any history on the Veterinarian’s List and Steward’s List as well as any medical history, race history, and physical observations of the horse.
Importantly, under the new protocols, every member of the review team must agree that the horse is not at elevated risk of injury in order to clear a horse to race. One dissenting member of the review team can prevent a horse from racing. TSG management has agreed to then instruct the Racing Secretary, who is currently responsible for deciding if a horse is fit to race, to deny the entry of any such horse and treat the review team’s recommendation as the final word.
“This is unprecedented in American horse racing,” said Alexis Podesta, Secretary of the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which oversees CHRB. “Never have we had this additional layer of review with a team of experts to connect data points and confer on the well-being and capability of individual race horses. Furthermore, recommendations coming from this team will be the final word as to whether or not a horse races. I expect the industry as a whole will embrace this effort.”
These changes come after the 29th horse death at the track since December. Earlier this week Senator Feinstein called for racing to be suspended immediately. CHRB does not currently have the authority to suspend a license or move races but legislative bill SB 469 which is now making its way through the California Legislature could change that. If passed the bill would allow CHRB to enact emergency measure and vote on whether or not to temporary close a track.
— BloodHorse (@BloodHorse) June 9, 2019
Governor Newsom also released a statement Tuesday which read in part, “I continue to be troubled by the horse deaths at Santa Anita Park. Enough is enough. I am calling on the California Horse Racing Board to ensure that no horse races until they are examined by independent veterinarians and found fit to compete.”
It appears the mounting public and political outcry was heard. TSG President and Chairwoman Belinda Stronach said, “Horse and rider safety is our top priority at Santa Anita Park, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to making California horse racing the safest and best in the world.” She went on, “We look forward to working with Governor Newsom and the California Horse Racing Board as they implement this additional layer of review through the end of our current meet.”
The review team will be in place for the final six racing days at Santa Anita.