California Gov. Gavin Newsom turned up the heat on horse racing Monday, telling the New York Times that the sport’s “time is up” if it doesn’t make significant reforms in regard to the health of its animals. His declaration arrives as Santa Anita prepares for the opening of its fall season on Friday on the heels of a six-month span that saw 30 horses die at the Los Angeles-area race track.
“What happened last year was unacceptable, and all of the excuses be damned,” Newsom told The Times. “We own that going into the next season, and we’re going to have to do something about it. “I’ll tell you, talk about a sport whose time is up unless they reform. That’s horse racing. Incredible abuses to these precious animals and the willingness to just to spit these animals out and literally take their lives is a disgrace.”
In June, Newsom signed bill (SB 469) into law, giving the California Horse Racing Board the authority to suspend the horse-racing licenses of tracks following the spate of deaths at Santa Anita.
Triple Crown scandal brings more heat
The Times also reported last month that 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify tested positive for banned performance-enhancer scopolamine after winning the Santa Anita Derby that year and should have been disqualified from racing at the Kentucky Derby. A coverup by the California Horse Racing Board chaired by Justify’s owner Chuck Winner allowed the horse to avoid disqualification, according to the report. Winner sold Justify’s breeding rights for $60 million, according to The Times.
Famed trainer’s role in scandal
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s lawyer argued that Justify’s positive test was a result of “environmental contamination” due to the consumption of jimson weed in his feed. Dr. Rick Sams, who ran the drug lab for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission from 2011 to 2018, told The Times after looking at records that the amount of scopolamine in Justify’s system — 300 milligrams — indicated doping. “I think it has to come from intentional intervention,” Sams said.
Board exonerated Baffert in horse deaths
The California Horse Racing Board exonerated Baffert in 2013 after seven of his horses died at Inglewood’s Hollywood Park over the course of 16 months. Baffert was found to have administered thyroid hormone thyroxine to his horses despite there being no evidence of hypothyroidism in the the horses that received the treatment. The board acknowledged the use of the drug by Baffert, but determined that he had not broken any rules.
Not just in California
Horse racing is under increased scrutiny nationwide as more attention is being paid to the spate of horse deaths. Belmont Park in New York, home to the third leg of the Triple Crown, drew attention when its death toll for 2019 increased to 25 with three deaths in the first two days of its fall season that started Sept. 6. Since then, five more horses have died at Belmont and four others at different New York tracks, according to the New York State Gaming Commission.
Newsom’s stern warning
Newsom cited the increased awareness of the fatalities that have always plagued the sport as influencing his stance. “The more you realize what’s really going on, the more intolerant you become of certain behaviors,” Newsom said. “If you don’t reform yourself, you’re going to get run over, and others are going to reform for you in ways that you don’t like.”
Source: Yahoo Sports
California Governor Newsom Signs Legislation to Strengthen Horse Safety and Race Track Accountability
Governor Newsom signs SB 469, which provides the California Horse Racing Board the authority to suspend a race meet license when necessary to protect the health and safety of horses or riders.
In a move to improve horse safety and bring a greater level of transparency and accountability to race tracks, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed SB 469 by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) and announced the appointment of seasoned veterinarian Gregory Ferraro to the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB). SB 469 would allow the CHRB to suspend horse racing licenses when necessary to protect the health and safety of horses and riders.
The bill signing comes weeks after Governor Newsom directed CHRB to apply new safety measures and create a review group at Santa Anita Park to provide additional examination and determine if an individual horse is at elevated risk of injury before racing. A total of 38 horses were scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita Park since this new review process was established earlier this month.
“Business as usual has resulted in too many horse deaths,” said Governor Newsom. “I applaud the Legislature for taking action to expand the authority of the CHRB to cancel or move race meets when animal and human safety are at risk. This problem demands deeper partnership between the CHRB and track officials. I call on race tracks around the state to hold themselves to the higher screening standards recently adopted at Santa Anita. This model can save horses’ lives.”
Currently, short of an allegation of an actual rule violation, the CHRB is limited in its ability to take action against a licensee to limit, place conditions on or suspend a racing license. SB 469 will update the law to allow the CHRB to take immediate action on race meet licenses if horse or rider safety is determined to be at risk.
“Putting the safety of horses first is paramount,” said Senator Dodd, the author of SB 469. “I appreciate Gov. Newsom’s partnership and swift action in supporting this commonsense measure to allow the Horse Racing Board to halt racing when dangerous conditions exist.”
After reports about the increasing number of horse deaths at California race tracks, Governor Newsom announced new regulatory actions through the CHRB and called for additional oversight measures, including the creation of a review group at Santa Anita Park during the final two weekends of race meets in June. This horse safety review group examined the past performances of all the horses, including any history on the Veterinarian’s List and Steward’s List, as well as any medical history CHRB was aware of, and physical observations of the horse when practicable. The panel then advised Santa Anita management if certain horses were considered high-risk. The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park, agreed to deny the entry of any such horses and treat the review group’s recommendation as the final word. A total of 38 horses were scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita under this process.
The Governor’s new appointee to the CHRB, Gregory Ferraro, 73, of San Francisco, was the director of the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Center for Equine Health from 1997 to 2014. Ferraro was owner and chief executive officer of Gregory L. Ferraro DVM, LLC from 1972 to 1997. He earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and is a member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Ferraro is registered without a party preference.
Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Judy Chu call for halt to racing at Santa Anita over 23 horse deaths
Two federal lawmakers are calling for the suspension of horse racing at Santa Anita Park until investigators determine the cause of 23 horse deaths in the last four months. Growing outrage over the repeated deaths has put the industry in a perilous position and cast a national spotlight on the famed Arcadia horse racing venue. Both the California Horse Racing Board and the Los Angeles County district attorney‘s office have launched investigations into the deaths.
On Tuesday, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to CHRB Chairman Chuck Winner asking the board to halt racing at Santa Anita. “The death of a single horse is a tragedy, but as a lifelong lover of horses, I’m appalled that almost two dozen horses have died in just four months,” Feinstein wrote in her letter.
‘Unique and serious problem’
Just a day earlier, Rep. Judy Chu, who has asked for a congressional inquiry into the deaths, said she believed racing should not continue. Chu described changes previously announced by Santa Anita’s owner as insufficient to address the problem. “It is clear to me that there is a unique and serious problem at Santa Anita that requires a more serious solution,” she said.
In a statement, CHRB spokesman Mike Marten said Winner has not received the letter from Feinstein, but he is aware of it and believes it is inappropriate to comment before having a discussion with the senator. The California Horse Racing Board does not have the authority to suspend racing, according to Winner, but the board plans to schedule a special meeting in the next 10 days in regard to future racing dates.
The 23rd horse was injured during a race and euthanized Sunday, just three days after the venue reopened from a two-week hiatus. Though the spike seems out of the ordinary, during last year’s season — which was one of the safest at Santa Anita — 18 racing and training deaths were reported from Dec. 29 to March 30, five less than the current total.
With a spotlight on it, Santa Anita’s problems could snowball into a crisis for horse racing in California. Even if the cause of the spike is corrected, the track typically averages 50 deaths per year and there are several months left in the season. If this year is at the average, or higher, at least two dozen more horses will die before the season ends, with each new death creating more controversy.
This weekend, Santa Anita is hosting the Santa Anita Derby, a steppingstone to the prestigious Kentucky Derby in May. There are no plans to cancel any of the races from Thursday to Sunday, according to spokesman Mike Willman. About 2,500 horses have worked out without incident since March 14, when the 22nd horse was euthanized, he said.
“Obviously, what happened Sunday is tragic,” Willman said. “And we don’t mean to minimize the very real problems that we’ve experienced since opening day, but we’re very, very confident both the main track and the turf are in prime condition.”
Surface experts have probed Santa Anita’s main track for signs of inconsistency and have cleared it as safe multiple times. Heavy rains in the first two months of the year were suspected of contributing to the deaths. However, investigators have yet to determine a cause for the deaths and some experts believe its unlikely there will ever be one clear-cut answer.
Still, the racetrack’s owners, The Stronach Group, have implemented sweeping changes as a result of the deaths, including limitations on medications, whips and the number of horses on the track at any given time. There’s growing concern that if Santa Anita can’t stop the rising death toll, it could spell disaster for the industry in California.
Last week, the CHRB instituted a statewide rule limiting whips to emergency situations. Board members acknowledged whips likely did not contribute to the deaths, but made the changes anyway in an effort to manage the public’s perception of the sport.
Baffert concerned about bad publicity
“I’m concerned about the publicity we’ve been getting,” said Bob Baffert, a Hall of Fame trainer, in an interview in the New York Times. “This is our March Madness. But we’re having the wrong kind of madness. We feel like we’re all under the gun. We should be under the gun. You can’t defend a horse getting hurt.”
Several groups, including the Jockey Club, have pushed for reforms in the aftermath of the deaths at Santa Anita. The Jockey Club is backing legislation in Congress that would create an independent anti-doping authority to develop and administer nationwide programs for horse racing. The national thoroughbred racing organization published a paper, titled “Vision 2025, To Prosper, Horse Racing Needs Comprehensive Reforms,” in late March.
“This isn’t about a single track — horse fatalities are a nationwide problem, one that has shocked the fans, the industry, the regulators and the general public,” the paper reads. The Jockey Club wants a central rule-making authority, uniformity between different jurisdictions, more transparency and drug testing, and stricter reporting of injuries sustained by horses, among other reforms.
Source: Pasadena Star News