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Independent Team To Determine Whether Horses Safe To Race At Santa Anita

ARCADIA (CBSLA) — One day after California Governor Gavin Newsom called for a temporary halt to horse racing at Santa Anita in the wake of 29 horse deaths, new safety measures were announced Wednesday in the form of a new independent horse safety review team.

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) reported that it reached a deal with The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, to put together a five-member independent team who will decide whether a horse is fit to race.

Santa Anita Park Track Cancels Races As Over 20 Horses Have Died There In Under Three Months
The main track is empty at Santa Anita Park on March 10, 2019 in Arcadia, California. Santa Anita has suspended horse racing after 21 horses died at the famed racetrack since December 26. The track is reportedly eyeing a March 22nd date to re-start races as an investigation into the cause of the deaths continues. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The team of independent veterinarians and stewards will review "horses' medical, training and racing history" and will be "empowered to scratch horses that do not appear fit to run."

"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," CHRB said in a statement.

The horse safety review team will be put in place immediately for the final six days of the horse racing season at Santa Anita.

Twenty-nine horses have died while racing or training at Santa Anita since Dec. 26.

This has led to growing outrage from animal rights advocates and politicians as to why horse racing has been allowed to continue at the park.

On Tuesday, Newsom released a statement in which he wrote:

"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."

Racing at Santa Anita was temporarily suspended in February – following the 19th horse death — and again for most of March – following the 21st horse death — so experts could conduct testing on the park's three tracks – the main, training and turf tracks — to try and pinpoint the issue. None of the horse deaths have occurred on the training track.

On March 31, just two days after racing had resumed, a 5-year-old gelding named Arms Runner had to be euthanized after being injured during a race when he fell following a collision with another horse while both were transitioning from the turf course to dirt.

In mid-March, Santa Anita officials announced a series of new measures to help bolster the safety of horses at the track, including restrictions on certain medications, requiring trainers to get permission in advance before putting a horse through a workout and investing in diagnostic equipment to aid in the early detection of pre-existing conditions.

Also in April, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the creation of a task force to investigate the deaths.

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