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Races to continue at Santa Anita despite 23 horse deaths

Arcadia, Calif.Santa Anita will continue racing through the end of the current meet June 23, despite objections from animal rights activists who urged the California Horse Racing Board to shutter the historic track, CBS Los Angeles reports. Speaking at the racing board's monthly meeting Thursday at the Baldwin Terrace Room in Santa Anita Park, Chairman Chuck Winner said that he sees no reason to reallocate any of Santa Anita's dates to another track.

More than half of those who addressed the board during a public comment period identified themselves as animal rights activists, with several quoting statistics about horse deaths from the same website. Some called for a ballot measure next year that would ask California voters to decide on the future of horse racing in the state.

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

Racing at Santa Anita was temporarily suspended in February — following the 19th horse death — and again in 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.

The second suspension ran from March 6 to March 28. On March 14, during the suspension, a filly named Princess Lili B broke her front legs while doing a half-mile workout on the main track and had to be euthanized.

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.

Animal rights advocates, along with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Arcadia, are demanding racing stop until an investigation into the exact cause of deaths can be completed.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office announced it had launched its own investigation into the horse deaths.

The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park, has implemented several changes this season in response to the deaths, including banning medication for horses on race days, banning Lasix and requiring complete transparency of all veterinary records.

Santa Anita horse racing deaths
Animal-rights advocates protest beside the entrance gate, the deaths of 23 racehorses in the first three months of this year at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, Calif., on April 6, 2019. Getty