Santa Anita imposing new safety, welfare rules for horses

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Santa Anita will impose new rules to scrutinize horses training on its racetrack and add a director of equine welfare following the deaths of 21 horses since Dec. 26.

The main dirt track and turf courses were in a third day of examination Saturday in an effort to uncover what may have led to the series of catastrophic breakdowns. The racetrack remains closed indefinitely for racing.

The inner training track, which has not had any breakdowns, was open for horses to jog and gallop only for the second straight day.

It was supposed to be a huge day of racing Saturday at the historic track. But the San Felipe Stakes for 3-year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls and the Santa Anita Handicap for older horses were scuttled when the track was closed on Tuesday.

Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, said the new safety and welfare measures will take effect when racing resumes in the coming weeks.

The new rules announced by Santa Anita’s owner TSG include requiring trainers to apply to hold timed workouts for their horses at least 24 hours in advance. Officials believe that will give track veterinarians time to identify potential at-risk horses through their past performances, workout date and physical inspection.

TSG says it has hired extra vets to observe all horses entering and exiting the dirt and turf course during morning training hours.

The morning training schedule will change, too.

The first 15 minutes of training after the dirt track opens, and each time its surface is renovated, will be reserved for horses completing official timed workouts. Officials say it will reduce the number of horses on the track at the same time and create a safer environment.

TSG plans to hire an accredited vet as the new director of equine welfare. That person will lead a rapid response team for injuries and conduct transparent investigations into the injury while communicating the findings to the racing and general public.

Santa Anita will require veterinary records of a horse to follow that animal through any ownership or trainer change. A similar rule is in effect at Florida’s Gulfstream Park, which is also owned by TSG.

“This has worked very well at Gulfstream Park,” Ritvo said. “There was some pushback from the trainers at first, but this is the best thing for the horse.”

Ritvo said TSG will invest in any new technology or equipment that will help discover pre-existing injuries in horses.

Santa Anita is expected to retain the services of Mick Peterson of the University of Kentucky and veteran track superintendent Dennis Moore, who are reviewing the dirt and turf courses.

“We’re looking forward to returning to normal,” Ritvo said, “but it will be a new normal.”

Santa Anita plans to reopen on Friday

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Anticipating approval by the California Horse Racing Board, Santa Anita plans to reopen for live racing on Friday for the first time since it was shut down following the deaths of 22 horses.

The track on Sunday issued a revised stakes schedule that includes the $600,000 Santa Anita Handicap to be run April 6, the same day as the $1 million Santa Anita Derby.

The CHRB is to meet on Thursday to consider new safety and medication rules that Santa Anita, Golden Gate Fields and the Thoroughbred Owners of California agreed to on March 16.

Racing has been suspended at the track since March 5 after 22 horses suffered fatal injuries since Dec. 26. Limited training is being allowed on the main dirt track while testing of the surface and new rules involving safety and medication have been worked out.

If the CHRB approves and racing resumes, Santa Anita will feature the $200,000 San Luis Rey Stakes on Friday.

The Santa Anita Handicap originally was to be run on March 9.

By My Standards a surprise winner of $1M Louisiana Derby

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NEW ORLEANS — By My Standards passed three horses down the stretch to win the $1 million Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds Race course Saturday.

The winner went off at 22-1 in what is one of the major prep races for the Kentucky Derby, and galloped past Todd-Pletcher-trained Spinoff to win by nearly a length.

Trained by W. Bret Calhoun, By My Standards earned 100 points in the Road to the Kentucky Derby, assuring qualification for the Triple Crown opener. Jockey Gabriel Saez steered By My Standards into fourth entering the final turn and finished the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:49.2. He paid $47, $16.60 and $9.40.

With John Velazquez aboard, Spinoff earned 40 points with a second place finish and paid $6.80 and $5.40.

Sueno finished third and paid $6.

War of Will was the morning line favorite at 6-5 and went off at 4-6. But after settling in the middle of the pack, the winner of the previous two Fair Grounds prep races faded and finished ninth in what was the colt’s first loss on a dirt track.