June 10, 2019 / 8:11 AM / 7 days ago

California racing course refuses to close after two more horses die

(Reuters) - The Santa Anita Park horse racing track near Los Angeles will not close before season-end as requested by regulators, its owners said on Sunday, after media reported that two more horses died at the course, bringing the toll to 29 since Christmas.

The leading thoroughbred racetrack voluntarily closed for most of March after a spate of racehorse deaths, most of them due to injuries. Following an inquiry by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the track re-opened, pledging to implement safety reforms.

But the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday that a 4-year-old gelding, Formal Dude, was euthanized after being injured during a mile dirt race on Saturday, and a 3-year-old filly died after cantering across the finish line. No cause of death has yet been determined, pending a necropsy.

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) has asked that the track voluntarily close, according to the newspaper, but in a statement track owners the Stronach Group said it would stay open until the season officially ends on June 23.

“We are collectively working on behalf of everyone in the sport — grooms, hot walkers, jockeys, exercise riders, starters, trainers, owners, track managers and every horse wearing a bridle and a saddle — to reform and improve racing every day,” the Stronach Group said in a statement on Sunday.

Santa Anita Park would stay open until these reforms had been completed, the company said.

The CHRB does not have the authority to immediately close the race track in Arcadia, about 15 miles northeast of Los Angeles. To implement a closure, the board must go through a formal process that includes a hearing with a 10-day notice period.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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