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California governor backs bill expanding racing board powers

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Gov. Gavin Newsom said he’s supporting legislation that would give the California Horse Racing Board authority to quickly suspend a meet license when necessary to protect the health and safety of horses or riders.

The announcement Thursday follows the deaths of 26 horses at Santa Anita since Dec. 26.

“The recent horse fatalities in California are unacceptable,” Newsom said in a statement. “We must hold the horse racing industry to account. If we can regulate horse race meets, we should have the authority to suspend licenses when animal or human welfare is at risk.”

The legislation, SB469 by state Sen. Bill Dodd, would allow the board to immediately suspend a license without the usual legal notice at least 10 days in advance of a vote, or the 48-hour requirement in the case of so-called special meetings. The bill has cleared the Senate and now goes to the Assembly.

“Santa Anita Park has led the way in implementing historic reforms that modern racing requires,” Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for tracks owner The Stronach Group, said in an email to The Associated Press.

“We are committed to working with Governor Newson and to continue the progress we have made to date with owners, trainers, jockeys and all other stakeholders who are prioritizing horse and rider safety,” he said.

Santa Anita’s current meet ends June 23. On Nov. 1-2, it will host the Breeders’ Cup, considered the biggest two-day event in U.S. horse racing.

The rate of deaths began drawing notice during winter when the track east of Los Angeles received unusually heavy rain, bringing scrutiny of the condition of the surface.

Most of the deaths occurred before the track temporarily suspended racing in early March and limited training.

Before racing resumed March 29, Santa Anita instituted medication limits and provided additional track veterinarians to monitor training hours. The racing board also increased veterinarian, steward and investigator staffing time.

In the meantime, the Los Angeles County district attorney opened an investigation and animal-rights activists have protested at the track.

The most recent death was on May 26, when a 9-year-old gelding was euthanized after injuring a leg in a race a day earlier. It was the third horse death in nine days.

Among the array of new measures aimed at improving safety, The Stronach Group invested $500,000 in a scanning machine to detect injuries.

In addition, no race-day medications are allowed except for the anti-bleeding medication Lasix, which will be phased out in stages. Medications for horses in training require a diagnosis from a state-qualified veterinarian, and transparency of veterinarian records has been increased.

Timed, high-speed workouts require permission at least 48 hours in advance so that veterinarians can try to identify at-risk risk horses.

The group also said it would continue working with independent track surface experts.

Higher Power wins $1M Pacific Classic

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DEL MAR, Calif. — With his top two horses elsewhere, John Sadler took a chance with a couple others in his barn.

Higher Power paid off.

The 4-year-old colt took command turning into the stretch and won the $1 million Pacific Classic by 5 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on Saturday, making Sadler the first trainer to win the Grade 1 race in consecutive years with different horses.

“The second time is just as sweet,” Sadler said.

In 2018, Accelerate ended Sadler’s 0-for-11 skid with a record 12 1/2-length victory in the West’s biggest race of the summer. Owner-brothers Kosta and Pete Hronis joined Sadler with consecutive victories.

“Winning it back to back is a tribute to John Sadler,” Kosta Hronis said.

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Higher Power ran 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.43 at the seaside track north of San Diego. Sent off at 9-1 odds, the colt paid $21.20, $9.40 and $7.40.

“When we entered the backside he really grabbed the bit and I was travelling really well,” Prat said. “Once the leader fell apart he really jumped into the bridle and did everything on his own, so I thought that was the right move.”

Draft Pick returned $17.40 and $10 at 13-1 odds. Mongolian Groom was another neck back in third and paid $7.20 to show at 18-1 odds.

Higher Power earned an automatic berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita this fall.

Seeking the Soul, the 2-1 favorite, finished seventh.

“He didn’t try at all,” jockey John Velazquez said. “No effort. I don’t get it.”

Sadler’s top two handicap horses, Gift Box and Catalina Cruiser, weren’t in the picture. Gift Box won’t run again until this fall and Catalina Cruiser is tabbed to run next in a sprint race.

Not seeing a dominant horse in the race, Sadler entered Higher Power. The colt responded with the first stakes win of his career.

“It developed pretty much the way we thought,” he said. “We thought there would be some speed on the inside and the plan was to stalk. It came out the way we thought it would.”

Sadler’s other entry, Campaign, finished fifth.

The victory, worth $600,000, increased Higher Power’s career earnings to $800,648, with five wins in 13 starts.

Sadler didn’t get Higher Power in his barn until spring. The colt was with another trainer for the first six starts of his career and then transferred to a different trainer.

In other stakes:

– Acclimate won the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap by a length under Florent Geroux. The 5-year-old brown gelding earned an automatic berth in the BC Turf.

Trained by Phil D’Amato, Acclimate ran 1 3/8 miles on turf in 2:12.71 and paid $16.60 to win at 7-1 odds.

– Cambier Parc shipped in from New York and won the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks by 1 1/4 lengths for trainer Chad Brown.

Ridden by Velazquez, the 3-year-old filly ran 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:46.75. She paid $4.40 as the 6-5 favorite.

– Fighting Mad cruised to an eight-length victory in the $100,000 Torrey Pines Stakes.

Ridden by Joe Talamo, the 3-year-old filly ran one mile in 1:38.61. Fighting Mad paid $6.60 as the 2-1 favorite trained by Bob Baffert. She’s owned by Gary and Mary West, owners of Maximum Security, disqualified after finishing first in the Kentucky Derby.

– Mr Vargas won the $100,000 Green Flash Handicap by 2 1/4 lengths.

The 5-year-old gelding ran five furlongs on turf in 56.15 seconds under Talamo. Mr Vargas paid $8.40 to win for trainer Brian Koriner.

Horologist upsets Jaywalk in Monmouth Oaks

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Horologist upset Jaywalk, last year’s juvenile filly champion, in the $162,500 Monmouth Oaks on Saturday.

As expected, 1-5 favorite Jaywalk set the pace until Horologist made a strong run along the rail on the final turn. She slipped by to win by three quarters of a length in the stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Monmouth Park.

Horologist, bred in New Jersey, won for the fifth time in 10 starts for trainer John Mazza. Mazza said he was confident his horse would run a “bang-up race,” but he didn’t know it would be enough to beat a “champion like Jaywalk.”

Angel Suarez was aboard for the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.44.

Jaywalk was coming off a nine-length win in the Delaware Oaks last month. She closed out last season by winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to clinch the Eclipse Award.

Horologist – whose name refers to a maker or dealer of timepieces – paid 12.80, $3.40 and $2.10 as the 5-1 second choice in the five-horse field.

Jaywalk returned $2.10 and $2.10. Sweet Sami D paid $2.10 to show, and was followed by Lady Banba and Stay Smart.