Triple Crown winner Justify retires from racing

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Triple Crown winner Justify has been retired from racing because of fluid in his left front ankle.

Trainer Bob Baffert and Justify’s owners made the announcement Wednesday. They said caution over his ankle condition made it impossible to tell if Justify would be healthy enough to race by the fall.

The goal was for Justify to run in a major race this summer and be pointed toward the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs. He was taken out of training earlier this month because of swelling in his ankle.

Justify won all six career starts, becoming the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to capture the Kentucky Derby after not racing as a 2-year-old. He won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes to become the 13th Triple Crown winner and second in the past four years.

Baffert says it’s his responsibility to make sure Justify was perfect to race again in the fall but couldn’t promise that. Justify is expected to return to WinStar Farm in Kentucky next month.

Santa Anita to run three days a week, hike purses for six weeks

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Santa Anita will race three days a week instead of four over the next four weeks because the track has lost some of its horse population to out-of-state venues.

Several stables have shipped horses to Kentucky to run at Keeneland and Churchill Downs, leaving Santa Anita with fewer horses to race and smaller field sizes.

Track officials have yet to decide whether to race three days or four for the final three weeks of the spring meet, which ends June 23.

The track said Friday it is raising purses for all non-stake races by $10,000 each for the next six weeks as a way to help owners and trainers who lost money when the track was closed for most of March.

The deaths of 23 horses since Dec. 26 forced the closure while the track’s dirt surface was examined. Racing resumed March 29, with one horse death occurring since then as the result of injuries in a turf race.

The purse increase announced Friday begins April 26 and runs through June 2. Track officials will decide later whether to continue it through the end of the meet.

The increase is being funded by existing excess money in the purse account and money from The Stronach Group, which owns the track.

Thoroughbred Owners of California chairman Nick Alexander says his group will match the purse supplements funded by TSG in the hopes of returning to racing four days a week.

Churchill Downs enacts improvements for horse, rider safety

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs will invest $8 million for an on-site equine medical center as part of several other measures to improve safety for horses and riders.

The medical center is expected to open next March and will include a quarantine facility. Next month’s Kentucky Derby will have a temporary medical center. The track’s parent company, Churchill Downs Incorporated, will also hire an equine medical director to oversee safety at its facilities.

The historic track will also install camera surveillance with other improvements to the backside area.

Earlier Thursday, Churchill Downs and several other tracks announced they would phase out use of the anti-bleeding medication Lasix for horses within 24 hours of racing. The track later announced other initiatives, including advocating for additional equine medication reforms; the formation of an Office of Racing Integrity that will to develop uniformed medication and safety standards; formalizing concussion protocol for jockey safety; and adopting international standards for riding crop use.