Santa Anita had its 20th horse racing death since the meeting opened on Dec. 26 when Eskenforadrink suffered a life-ending injury during the third race on Saturday.
The 4-year-old filly was on the lead in a $16,000 claiming race on the backstretch entering the far turn when jockey Geovanni Franco quickly pulled her up with an injury to her front leg. She was taken off the course by van and later euthanized when it was determined she could not recover from her injuries.
Rain had made the track sloppy, although it’s unknown whether the condition of the track played any role in the horse’s fatal injury. It was the seventh death during a race on the dirt track. There have been five on turf and eight during training on the dirt.
The number of deaths became a flashpoint of both concern and criticism at the Arcadia track. Santa Anita brought in a soil and safety expert from the University of Kentucky at the beginning of the week to determine whether there was anything in the dirt that was making the track unsafe. After extensive testing, Mick Peterson declared the track “100% ready” for racing.
Santa Anita had shut down training on Monday morning after a 19th death and kept it closed Tuesday and Wednesday while tests were conducted. Horses returned both for training and racing on Thursday and Friday. Because of the rain, training was canceled on Saturday morning.
Since the track was reopened 523 horses either had a timed workout or ran in a race without incident before the third race Saturday. Hundreds more have either galloped or exercised over the track surfaces.