Santa Anita, two weeks before the Breeders’ Cup, suffered its second racing fatality in 15 race days when Satchel Paige was pulled up after a life-ending injury on the far turn during Saturday’s running of the fifth race.
In addition, the track has had two training deaths. The total of four equals last year’s total for the short fall meeting.
Satchel Paige was the favorite in the maiden race and was moving up on leaders when it appeared something happened to his left front leg and jockey Ruben Fuentes pulled him up. He was attended to on the track and euthanized when it was determined his injuries could not be repaired. The tell-tale green screen obscured what was happening to the horse when attending veterinarians arrived on the scene.
Fuentes was uninjured and offered no comment when approached by a Times reporter.
“Satchel Paige will undergo a necropsy at the University of California-Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine on behalf of the California Horse Racing Board, as is mandatory for all on-track accidents,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinarian for the Stronach Group. “The accident and the necropsy report will be reviewed to learn what, if anything, could have been done to prevent the accident. Santa Anita will work closely with the CHRB to investigate this accident and will continue to brief our stakeholders and all of our constituents, including the public, as more facts come in.”
Santa Anita has been under scrutiny since 30 horses died during its winter/spring meeting, which started Dec. 26. The track was shut down, after the 22nd death, for about three weeks while management tried to find answers to the number of breakdowns. No single answer was discovered. The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office is investigating the horse deaths.
Saturday’s death — which comes after the Sept. 28 death of Emtech, a 3-year-old colt, following an injury during a race at Santa Anita — is sure to raise the temperature on the racetrack’s role in hosting the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 1-2. The Breeders’ Cup board voted to keep the event at the Arcadia track. Craig Fravel, chief executive of the Breeders’ Cup, will join the Stronach Group as chief executive for racing after the Breeders’ Cup.
Satchel Paige was owned and bred by Nick Alexander, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. He has named many of his horses after former baseball players. Satchel Paige was a 3-year-old California-bred gelding making his sixth start. He was winless and made his last start Sept. 22 at Los Alamitos, where he finished fourth.
It was the second fatality this year for trainer Phil D’Amato, who lost Formal Dude on June 8 during a $30,000 maiden claiming race.