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Bill allowing horse racing to be suspended approved by California Legislature

ARCADIA, CA - JUNE 23, 2019 - #5 We’re Still Here, with jockey Drayden Van Dyke, foreground, battl
Horses race at Santa Anita during the final day of the season on Sunday. Thirty horses died at Santa Anita Park during its winter/spring meeting.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The power of the California Horse Racing Board grew on Monday when the legislature unanimously approved a bill that would grant the regulatory body the authority to suspend or move racing days without a 10-day public notice period.

If this bill (SB 469) had passed a few weeks ago, the CHRB would have had the ability to shut down the last two weeks of racing at Santa Anita. After a 28th horse died at Santa Anita, Chuck Winner, CHRB chairman, and Madeline Auerbach, vice-chairman, in a late Saturday night call asked Santa Anita to suspend racing for the remaining six days of the season. The track refused and, with a 10-day waiting period, the CHRB had no recourse. Now they do.

On the Sunday after the request, a 29th horse died of a heart attack. This past Saturday a 30th horse died during training and the Stronach Group banished Jerry Hollendorfer, a Hall of Fame trainer, from all its tracks. Horses in Hollendorfer’s care accounted for four of 30 deaths. Hollendorfer also had two deaths at Golden Gate Fields.

The bill has to be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has said he supports the bill.

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“We must take action now to protect horses and jockeys, ensuring safety is always paramount in California horse racing,” co-sponsor Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa) said. “Because clearly, there is a problem here, and we can’t sit back and do nothing. I appreciate my colleagues in the Legislature for coming together to pass this important safety measure, and I look forward to Gov. Newsom signing it into law.”

The bill received bi-partisan support.

On Monday, the CHRB also announced the members of the panel that will pre-screen horses before they can race at Los Alamitos. At Santa Anita, the panel excluded 38 horses over six days, not including four that were trained by Hollendorfer.

The Los Alamitos group is safety steward Jon White, steward Grant Baker, veterinarian Tim Grande, CHRB chief steward Darrel McHargue and Dr. Rick Arthur, chief equine veterinarian for the CHRB and UC Davis.

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McHargue will miss the first two days of the meeting. White is a contributor to the Los Angeles Times horse racing newsletter.

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