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.