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Thoroughbred Deaths Cast Shadow Over Golden Gate Fields New Season

ALBANY (CBS SF) -- On opening day of the fall horse racing season at Albany's Golden Gate Fields, horse trainers and owners are characteristically nervous about how their horses will perform. But this season, they have new concerns about the future of their sport.

The horse racing industry has been under scrutiny in the last year, since more than two dozen horses died at Santa Anita Park in Southern California. Nine horses died at Golden Gate Fields between December 2018 and June 2019.

In March, the Stronach Group, which owns both Golden Gate Fields and Santa Anita Park, announced a series of new policy changes, including banning race day medications and limiting the use of whips by jockeys.

Golden Gate Fields spent $1.2 million on a new safety rail on the track, designed to protect horses and jockeys if they bump into it.

Horse owners and racers told KPIX-5 the changes are for the best.

"These are great safety procedures they've put in place," said trainer Marcia Stortz.

"California has been by far the number one state enforcing this in the United States," added horse owner Johnny Taboada.

But Taboada said he was taken aback by the banning of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Hollendorfer was prohibited from racing at Golden Gate Fields and other tracks after several horses under his care died.

Taboada said the increased scrutiny has those who love the sport concerned that there may not be a future in horse racing.

"There is uncertainty," said Taboada. "Because of that, we are hesitant."

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