Racing board says Los Alamitos must come up with plan to address horse deaths

The starting gate at the Los Alamitos Race Course is shown.
The California Horse Racing Board has voted to put Los Alamitos Race Course on probation for 10 days.
(Howard Lipin / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The California Horse Racing Board, in an emergency meeting Friday, has given Los Alamitos Race Course 10 days to come up with plan to address an increase in equine fatalities at the track. There have been 20 racing and training deaths at Los Alamitos since Dec. 27, including eight since May 26.

The two-hour teleconference was punctuated by appeals from trainers, such as Bob Baffert, and the Thoroughbred Owners of California to continue racing. However, most of the public comment period was dominated by animal rights activists — 13 of the 18 speakers — who wanted to close the track.

Perhaps the most persuasive to speak on the track’s behalf, was Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director, who did not join Scott Chaney, executive director of the CHRB, in calling for the emergency meeting.

Arthur said that fatalities can cluster together and then a track might not have any for a while.


“I see no evidence there is a problem with the Los Alamitos track,” Arthur said. “It’s the same problems everywhere … with questionable training and horse management and questionable veterinary practices. For whatever reasons, those have been especially problematic at Los Alamitos this year. This is not a Los Alamitos problem.”

The vote to put Los Alamitos on probation for 10 days was 5 to 1, with Wendy Mitchell dissenting.

In making the motion to give the track more time, Chairman Greg Ferraro said a closure is “one step too far without giving them a chance” to come up with a plan. Friday’s meeting was called Thursday, although the track knew about the possibility of a meeting earlier in the week.

Ferraro made it clear that Los Alamitos has to submit a plan before the next scheduled meeting on this topic on July 20. There is also a CHRB meeting on July 16, but the agenda for that meeting already has been set.

“This is Los Alamitos’ problem to solve, not the commission’s to solve,” Ferraro said, stressing that if the plan is not acceptable, the track’s license will be suspended.

Los Alamitos will continue to race on its current Friday through Sunday nighttime schedule.