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Santa Anita Racetrack Suspends Racing Indefinitely After 21st Horse Dies

ARCADIA (CBSLA) — Hours after the death of the 21st horse at Santa Anita since late December, track officials announced an indefinite suspension of racing at the famed facility.

A 4-year-old horse was injured during training at the race track and subsequently euthanized Tuesday. Let's Light the Way, a filly trained by Ron McAnally, was injured during a workout around 7:45 a.m. McAnally said the filly suffered a shattered a bone in the knee or foot, and the horse was euthanized a short time later.

"It is a tragic loss, and weren't not too sure why it happened," said McAnally's wife, Debbie. "We just need to get all the facts out there and go from there."

Ron McAnally said weather may be a factor in the deaths.

Let's Light the Way earned $18,500 in four starts, including one win at Santa Anita last April.

Hours after the horse's death, Santa Anita announced it retained former track superintendent Dennis Moore to inspect the racing surface.

2014 Breeders' Cup Classic

The track had previously canceled racing scheduled for Thursday due to this week's rain, with racing set to resume Friday.

But hours later, the track opted to put all racing activity on hold indefinitely. Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of track owner The Stronach Group, told Daily Racing Form the suspension will give Moore – who retired from Santa Anita in December and is now track superintendent for Del Mar and Los Alamitos – sufficient time to thoroughly inspect the racing surface.

As of late afternoon, the track had not yet issued an official statement. Jim Cassidy, president of California Thoroughbred Trainers, confirmed to the industry publication Bloodhorse that all racing and training activity at the track was being scrubbed indefinitely, although he said he hopes the training track will reopen this weekend. He noted that none of the horses who died were injured on the training track.

The suspension of racing and uncertainty of when it might resume set off a wave of questions about critical upcoming races.

RELATED: 'Stop This Spiral Of Deaths:' PETA Calls On Santa Anita Race Track To Close After 20th Horse Dies

Santa Anita was set to have five stakes races Saturday, including the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, in which Game Winner – who is undefeated in four starts and was named last year's champion 2-year-old colt – was set to make his first 2019 start as he prepares for the Kentucky Derby. Game Winner's stablemate, Improbable, is undefeated in three starts and was also set for his 2019 debut in the same race for trainer Bob Baffert.

Other stakes races that had been set for Saturday were the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile, Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes and the China Doll Stakes.

One stakes race – the Santa Ysabel Stakes – was set for March 10.

Earlier Tuesday, the chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, Chuck Winner, asked that the Santa Anita fatalities and plans for addressing them be discussed at the oversight board's next meeting.

"The board has been in contact with Santa Anita on an ongoing basis as they have tried to deal with this situation," according to a statement from CHRB. "The board is now examining other options to prevent additional fatalities. Chairman Winner has asked that the matter be placed on the agenda for the board's March 21 meeting."

Santa Anita was closed for two days last week so experts could study the main track to identify possible contributing factors to the spate of horse deaths. Last Wednesday, Santa Anita officials said analysts conducting tests of the racing surface had declared it ready for reopening. Mick Peterson of the University of Kentucky, who evaluates the track's soil on a monthly basis, said the track was "100 percent ready" for racing to resume.

"The ground-penetrating radar verified all of the materials, silt, clay and sand, as well as moisture content, are consistent everywhere on this track," Peterson said last week. "This testing ensures all components, the 5-inch cushion, pad and base are consistent and in good order."

Racing at the track resumed last Thursday, but another horse, Eskenforadrink, also a 4-year-old filly, was injured during a race Saturday and had to be put down.

Races were held as scheduled Sunday.

Some animal-advocacy groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have called for a halt to racing at the track and for investigations into the trainers and veterinary records of the horses that have died.

Protesters Sunday converged at Santa Anita following the swarm of deaths at the racetrack since its winter meet began on Dec. 26.

About a dozen people gathered with signs that read "Your Bets Cause Horses' Deaths" and "How Many Have To Die?"

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)


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