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New California law aimed at reducing horse racing deaths

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The agency overseeing horse racing in California can now immediately suspend licenses to protect the health and safety of horses and riders, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday in response to 30 horse deaths this year at famed Santa Anita Park.

“Business as usual has resulted in too many horse deaths,” Newsom said in a news release announcing that he signed legislation expanding the authority of the California Horse Racing Board. Previous state law limited the board’s authority to suspend racing licenses.

Santa Anita Park finished its season on Sunday, and races are scheduled to resume in September. The track is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup in November, one of the sport’s most prestigious and lucrative events.

The new law expands the board’s authority by allowing it to suspend licenses for safety reasons and to act quickly by calling emergency meetings that do not comply with the state’s open meetings act.

However, the law requires the board to notify the media by telephone at least one hour before an emergency meeting is called.

“The chairman will determine when and if it becomes necessary to call an emergency meeting,” board spokesman Mike Marten said.

The deaths at Santa Anita Park have shocked the industry. The board and the Los Angeles County district attorney have been jointly investigating the deaths since March.

Two weeks ago, Newsom directed the board to adopt new safety standards and a five-member board to review medical, training and racing history of horses. Newsom’s office said 38 horses were scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita Park since then.

The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita Park, also banned Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer from the track after four of his horses died.

Heat prompts NYRA to cancel racing Saturday at Saratoga

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — The New York Racing Association has canceled Saturday’s card of racing at Saratoga Race Course due to excessive heat forecast for eastern New York.

The National Weather Service is predicting a heat index as high as 110 degrees. Training will be permitted Saturday on both the main track and Oklahoma training track in the normally cooler temperatures in the morning.

The last time an entire racing card was canceled at Saratoga because of extreme heat was Aug. 2, 2006, when temperatures rose to the upper 90s and the heat index measured as high as 110 degrees.

NYRA president Dave O’Rourke calls the move “of the utmost importance” to NYRA and its industry partners.

The sport has come under increased scrutiny with the deaths of 30 horses during the recent racing season at Santa Anita in Southern California.

Two horses killed at Del Mar in training collision

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Two horses have been killed in a collision at Del Mar during training on the second day of its 2019 season.

The track says the accident occurred Thursday morning when the horse Charge A Bunch threw rider Geovanni Franco, turned sharply and collided with Carson Valley.

Carson Valley’s rider, jockey Assael Espinoza, was taken to a hospital for evaluation but Franco was not injured.

Carson Valley’s trainer, Bob Baffert, says it was a freak accident beyond anyone’s control.

The Del Mar deaths follow 30 horse fatalities at the just-ended Santa Anita meet. Those deaths led to an array of new procedures intended to increase safety.