Despite injuries that have forced Santa Anita Park officials to euthanize 30 horses since December, Breeders’ Cup board members said they would not move the race to Churchill Downs in Kentucky.
The announcement came after the Breeders’ Cup’s 14-member board unanimously voted to keep its Nov. 1-2 championship races at the Arcadia racetrack.
“Foremost among the core values of the Breeders’ Cup are the safety and integrity of the competition and we hold ourselves, our host sites and our competitors to the highest standards of both,” Craig Fravel, president and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup, said in a prepared statement. “It is clear that meaningful and effective reforms and best practices have been implemented in recent months at Santa Anita through the collective efforts of The Stronach Group (owners of the track), the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the California Thoroughbred Trainers, and the California Horse Racing Board.”
Members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) praised the decision, primarily because more horses have died at Churchill Downs than at Santa Anita.
“Who could possibly have thought that it was a good idea to move the Breeders’ Cup from a track that is trying to stop the carnage to one with an even more shameful record of fatalities?” said PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo. “The Breeders’ Cup board made the right decision. Now, it should disallow trainers with multiple medication violations from all races.”
According to a report in USA Today, Churchill Downs does not publicly disclose its racing fatalities, but a spokesman for the track confirmed figures obtained through a public records request of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.
Those records show that 43 horses were euthanized due to racing injuries since 2016, a 2.42 per 1,000-start average that was 50 percent higher than the national average during the same three-year span.
The deaths have rocked officials at Santa Anita. The park closed in March after the 21st horse died and put new safety protocols in place, including banning race day medication, increasing transparency of veterinary records, further regulating approval for workouts, and increasing reviews of the track’s surface.
Some experts believe the injuries have been caused by an extra hard track created in response to this year’s above average rainfall.
Earlier this week California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that gives the the California Horse Racing Board the power to suspend racing at any time should it see a safety issue for horses and riders. Newsom also added a veterinarian to the board.