Less than two weeks before the start of perhaps the most important race meeting in Santa Anita’s history, there was a fatality during training Monday at the Arcadia track.
Zeke, a 4-year-old gelding trained by Dean Pederson, was diagnosed with a pelvic fracture after being pulled up while working on the training track, which is considered to be the safest surface at Santa Anita. Veterinarians tried to save the horse but at 11 p.m. decided that euthanasia was the best option.
“Everyone at Santa Anita and throughout The Stronach Group is devastated by the loss,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinarian for The Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita. “We are carefully reviewing what factors could have contributed to Zeke’s injury. Santa Anita will continue to work closely with the California Horse Racing Board and will continue to be transparent with our stakeholders and all of our constituents, including the public, as more facts come in.”
Before Monday’s fatality, there had been 1,034 workouts without incident, officials said. Santa Anita opened for training after Del Mar‘s summer meet closed and racing moved to Los Alamitos.
Benson said Zeke would undergo a necropsy by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, a procedure mandatory for all on-track accidents. The accident and necropsy reports will then be reviewed by the California Horse Racing Board.
Zeke last ran on Aug. 29 at Del Mar, where he finished fifth in a claiming race. He was claimed out of that race by Pederson for owners Tom Acker, Rudy Lapera, Scott Knight, Alan McKean and Jason Ehrlicher for $25,000.
Santa Anita is under unprecedented scrutiny over safety concerns after 30 fatalities in the track’s winter-spring meeting. The track has implemented several measures to try to solve the mystery of why so many horses have died.
New medical protocols were put in place to make sure horses were as sound as possible before running. In addition, Santa Anita tore up its track in its offseason to install a new drainage system.
The sport is currently in a long stretch of safe racing. It has been 14 weeks since a horse has died racing. Zeke’s is the fifth training death in Southern California since Santa Anita’s closing day on June 23. Four horses died during training during Del Mar’s seven-week meeting. Two of the deaths came as the result of a freak accident on the second day of the meet when a horse threw his rider and ran head first into another horse killing both animals instantly.
Santa Anita’s fall racing meet opens Friday, Sept. 27.