Horse owners and labor organizers call for racing to resume at Santa Anita Park

Jockey Aaron Gryder rides Discrete Stevie B to victory at Santa Anita.
Santa Anita Park has not hosted races since March 27 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

About three dozen members of the horse racing industry gathered in front of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, which houses the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, on Tuesday in hopes of convincing the Board of Supervisors to push for racing to resume at Santa Anita Park.

Tuesday marked the first official meeting of the Board of Supervisors since Santa Anita submitted a proposal to the county for additional safety protocols they would implement should racing be allowed to resume. That includes a plan to house jockeys at the track.

The gathering was spearheaded by Oscar de la Torre, a labor organizer and advocate for backstretch workers, and included several horse owners and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The protest did not include many backstretch workers who must typically work at the track until about 11 a.m.

Santa Anita stopped racing horses last month, but hundreds of people still work, and live, in a stable area at the track under the specter of COVID-19.

April 18, 2020

Santa Anita had been racing without fans from March 12 through March 27, when the county health department informed the track that racing was not considered an essential activity and must be halted. The backstretch, which houses about 2,000 horses, remained open since facilities that care for animals are considered essential. About 750 workers live and work on the backstretch and several hundred more work on the backstretch and live elsewhere.

Tuesday’s 11 a.m. protest was mostly composed of horse owners and labor organizers, including one who represented security workers at the track. The purses associated with racing help horse owners pay trainers the daily fee it costs to train horses. The trainers use that money to pay grooms, hot-walkers, exercise riders and other workers who help care for the horses.