The California Horse Racing Board postponed Friday’s scheduled meeting to discuss its ability to reassign racing dates should Santa Anita elect to suspend racing in the future. The meeting was rescheduled for Thursday, April 18. No explanation was given for the postponement, although the added time gives affected parties more time to come to an agreement.
The CHRB, as a regulatory body, does not have the ability to make change like a league office or commissioner’s office. It has to follow state procedures that often slow processes significantly. It’s not unusual for issues between stakeholders to be decided before the meeting, making the public comment more perfunctory than persuasive. CHRB chairman Chuck Winner was at Santa Anita over the weekend.
Santa Anita is in the midst of a rash of horse deaths — 23 since Dec. 26. However, as public pressure on the horse racing industry has grown, the track’s safety record has improved. There has been one fatality over the last 25 training days and seven racing days.
The change was put forward by Belinda Stronach, president and chief executive of The Stronach Group, as a way to show the public that horse racing is enacting changes. There is no direct link between the use of a riding crop and any of the breakdowns, however, the optics of a jockey hitting a horse remain poor. Jockeys says the riding crop is mostly a noise maker to focus the horse and does not hurt the animal.