Studying Santa Anita: A Key to Making Horse Racing Safer

Finding the cause of 21 equine fatalities at Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, California, is key to the future of not only the venue but also the horse racing industry in general, says a Kentucky-based scientist investigating the incidents.
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Studying Santa Anita: A Key to Making Horse Racing Safer
Track consultant Dennis Moore inspects Santa Anita Park's footing on Monday morning. | Photo: Courtesy Santa Anita

Finding the cause of 21 equine fatalities at Santa Anita Park, in Arcadia, California, is key to the future of not only the venue but also the horse racing industry in general, says a Kentucky-based scientist who’s among those investigating the incidents.

“We ‘re doing the best we can with the information that we have, but we need to do more to improve safety for horses and riders in order to keep racing,” said Mick Peterson, PhD, director of the University of Kentucky’s Ag Equine Programs and a professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering. He’s also the executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, through which he evaluates surface conditions at Santa Anita and other major racetracks nationwide.

From the time Santa Anita’s current race meet began in December 2018 until Feb. 25, 19 racehorses died or were euthanized as the result of injuries sustained while racing or training on Santa Anita’s dirt and turf tracks. In response, management closed the track to racing and training for two days so Peterson and others could evaluate soil samples and thoroughly examine the track’s cushion, pad, and base. However, those investigations revealed no track-related link to the fatalities

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Written by:

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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