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Santa Anita suffered sixth horse death of season on Saturday

Horses and jockeys race during a Grade III horse race Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.
Horses and jockeys compete during a Grade III horse race Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.
(Associated Press)

Santa Anita suffered its sixth racing or training fatality of the season when Double Touch, a 6-year-old gelding, died on the training track Saturday in what was described as a “sudden death.”

Though the track released few details, this kind of death is generally attributed to a heart attack or something other than “catastrophic,” or a horse that breaks down because of some kind of exercise-induced fracture.

The horse had completed a four-furlong workout on Saturday and collapsed and died. If a horse fatality is listed as sudden death the horse was not euthanized. As is standard, a necropsy will be performed.

Santa Anita has not had a repeat of last year’s disastrous season in which 37 horses died, including Mongolian Groom in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Last year, to this point, Santa Anita had 13 fatalities. There have been no deaths on the dirt surface, which was at the center of last year’s fatalities. This is the third death on the training track, considered the safest surface, and three have been on the turf.

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Thousand Words put himself in the Kentucky Derby picture by winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita for Bob Baffert’s 3,000th victory.

Santa Anita, and owner the Stronach Group, instituted a series of safety reforms in the hopes of restoring public confidence in the sport with the ultimate goal of reducing fatalities to as low a number as possible.

Double Touch was trained by John Sadler and had been running mostly lower division stakes races. His last race was a fourth in the Clockers’ Corner Stakes on Jan. 26 at Santa Anita. His previous race was a second in the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez Stakes. Double Touch had won four of 22 lifetime starts and had won about $200,000. He was a British-bred horse that had been purchased in 2016 for about $90,000.

Double Touch ran his first five races in Britain before coming to the United States and racing for trainer Dan Blacker. Last September, Sadler and Hronis Racing claimed the horse for $40,000. Kosta and Pete Hronis won the Eclipse Award last year as top owners.

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Santa Anita was cleared earlier by the L.A. County district attorney’s office in an investigation that found no criminal activity and no causation for the spike in deaths.

The California Horse Racing Board is expected soon to release the results of its almost year-long investigation into the deaths at Santa Anita. The release date keeps being postponed. It’s expected that the report will say most of the horses’ injuries were caused by pre-existing conditions, which is almost always the case in catastrophic breakdowns. However, many of those conditions are not detected because of a lack of science or medicine.


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