Gov. Gavin Newsom issues puzzling statement on Santa Anita horse deaths

A statue of Zenyatta stands in the paddock gardens area at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The California Horse Racing Board and The Stronach Group are expected to announce Wednesday a greater involvement of independent veterinarians in the pre-race process at Santa Anita.

No details were provided late Tuesday night. Santa Anita, owned by the Stronach Group, has only six racing days left, although the track will be open for training until mid-July.

Word of the impending announcement comes after a puzzling statement from Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday calling for something that already exists.


“I continue to be troubled by the horse deaths at Santa Anita Park,” Newsom said. “Enough is enough. I am calling on the California Horse Racing Board to ensure that no horse races until they are examined by independent veterinarians and found fit to compete.”

Currently, horses are examined multiple times, right up until they are loaded in the gate, by independent state veterinarians.

Russ Heimerich, deputy secretary of communications for the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, which oversees the CHRB, said: “[Veterinarians] will be doing more, which we will unveil [Wednesday.]”

The CHRB referred all queries to Heimerich. Santa Anita did not get back with answers to questions.

This comes after a flurry of late-night conversations Saturday night and Sunday, where the CHRB asked Santa Anita to suspend racing for the rest of the season, or seven days at that time. Santa Anita denied the request.

The CHRB has a mechanism to stop racing and move dates, but it requires a 10-day waiting period. On Monday, the CHRB filed its notice about its next meeting in Pleasanton but there was no item relating to suspending the last weekend of Santa Anita, which would have fallen just under the window.


All of this follows 29 deaths at the track since the meet started Dec. 26. Santa Anita has had extended periods of both safe racing and a spate of fatalities. The CHRB and L.A. District Attorney’s office are investigating the deaths.

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