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Santa Anita Reopens Training Track, Live Racing Still Suspended

SANTA ANITA (CBSLA) – While live racing is suspended indefinitely at Santa Anita Park, officials reopened the training track as they continue to attempt to determine what could be responsible for the deaths of 21 horses going back to December.

Santa Anita's training track -- one of three on the grounds that include the main and turf tracks -- reopened Friday. The park noted that no horses have sustained any serious injuries on the training track so far this season.

Santa Anita race track
Experts examine the main track at Santa Anita Park on March 7, 2019. Racing was suspended indefinitely following the death of 21 horses going back to December of 2018. (CBS2)

Twenty-one horses have died while racing or training at Santa Anita since Dec. 26. The latest horse died Tuesday morning. A 4-year-old filly named Let's Light the Way suffered a shattered bone in her knee or foot during a workout and was forced to be euthanized.

Hours after that death, the track announced that all racing activities at the park had been suspended through at least this weekend.

According to the Los Angeles Times, nine of the deaths have occurred during training on the main dirt track, seven have occurred during racing on the main dirt track, and five have occurred on the turf track. None of the deaths have occurred on the training track.

Tests were being conducted on all three tracks Thursday and Friday, the second such round of tests in just the past two weeks. The park's former track superintendent, Dennis Moore, along with Dr. Mick Peterson, director of the University of Kentucky's Agricultural Equine Programs, were conducting the examination. They are looking at whether the heavy rainfall which has fallen across the region over the past few months has factored into the death toll.

After "evaluating it (the training track) extensively Moore said he's 'happy with it,'" Santa Anita said in a news release. "Once it reopens, they will closely monitor that track's condition as horses stabled at Santa Anita Park begin using it."

Last week, Santa Anita closed the main track for several days to have Peterson do an evaluation, this following the 19th horse death. The main track was closed to live racing from Feb. 25 through Feb. 28, but reopened to live racing on Friday, March 1.

Since live racing resumed, two more horses, including Let's Light the Way, have died. A four-year-old filly named Eskenforadrink had to be euthanized after getting injured during a race on Saturday, March 2.

"The objective here is a uniform surface, a consistent surface, and that's more of a challenge when you get a whole lot of rain in a short amount of time," Mike Willman, a Santa Anita Park spokesman, told CBS2 Thursday.

Santa Anita was projected to make about $20 million in Saturday's canceled races.

"Economic concerns are not a concern," Willman added. "The safety of our equine athletes, our jockeys, our exercise people, are paramount."

Moore was Santa Anita's track superintendent until he retired in December. He is now track superintendent for Del Mar and Los Alamitos race tracks.

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


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