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Dianne Feinstein renews call for suspension of Santa Anita races

ARCADIA, CALIF. - APRIL 06: Jockeys and their horses race in the Providencia Stakes (Grade III) at S
Horses race at Santa Anita Park on April 6. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has once again called for a moratorium on racing at Santa Anita following the latest horse deaths at the track.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) again is calling for racing to be halted at Santa Anita after three horses died in nine days.

“I once again call for an immediate moratorium on racing at Santa Anita,” Feinstein said in a statement. “We need a thorough investigation of practices and conditions at the track before any more races are held.”

There have been 26 horse deaths since the track started its meeting Dec. 26. Two of the last three deaths were unusual injuries not generally associated with breakdowns. One horse, Commander Coil, broke a shoulder while galloping, a very low-risk activity. The track had gone six weeks without a fatality before the 3-year-old gelding suffered the catastrophic injury.

Spectacular Music, a 3-year-old gelding, was euthanized after an unusual pelvis injury while racing and Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding, died of a leg fracture after efforts to save him during surgery were unsuccessful Sunday.

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There are only 12 more racing days at Santa Anita before Los Alamitos has a short meeting followed by the summer meeting at Del Mar. Closing day at Santa Anita is June 23. Racing returns to Arcadia on Sept. 26 for about a one-month meeting that concludes with the Breeders’ Cup.

The California Horse Racing Board and L.A. County District Attorney’s office are conducting a joint investigation into the deaths. In a hearing in Sacramento last week, Rick Baedeker, executive director of the CHRB, said the investigation should be finished in about four weeks. Baedeker has also said the reason for the increase in deaths may never be known.

“I believe we need to carefully review what medications horses are given, and under what circumstances as well as take a close look at the issue of overrunning horses, which may be contributing to deaths,” Feinstein said.

“Tracks in the United States have significantly higher rates of death than tracks overseas. We need to determine what we’re doing wrong in this country and fix it. If we can’t, we need to consider whether horse racing has a future here.”

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