Santa Anita cancels racing after 21 horse deaths

Santa Anita, the storied Southern California racetrack that will host the Breeders’ Cup world championships for a record 10th time this fall, is canceling racing indefinitely to re-examine the dirt surface after the deaths of 21 horses in the past two months — the latest fatality occurring Tuesday.

Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Stronach Group, which owns the Arcadia (Los Angeles County) track, said Ritvo said that racing won’t be held this weekend, when two major races were scheduled: the San Felipe for 3-year-old Kentucky Derby hopefuls and the Santa Anita Handicap for older horses. He wouldn’t speculate on when racing would resume.

“In whole, we feel confident in the track and we’re just being very proactive,” Ritvo said. “We want to do all the testing that needs to be done. When we believe we’re in good shape, we’ll start to train over it again.”

The highest-profile horse to be euthanized was Battle of Midway, winner of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The 5-year-old bay also finished third in the 2017 Kentucky Derby for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The horse suffered injuries during a workout Feb. 23.

Last week, Santa Anita was closed for two days while the dirt surface underwent extensive testing and was declared fit for racing. But Tuesday’s injury to 4-year-old filly Lets Light the Way, which led her to being euthanized, caused Ritvo to rethink matters. He said that the 11½ inches of rain and unusually cold temperatures in February might be a factor.

“We think that (rain) could definitely contribute even though our experts are telling us not,” Ritvo said. “The tracks out here are (not) built for weather like that.”


Flurry of signings, franchise tags

The NFL deadline passed Tuesday, and the final total of players given franchise tags stood at five defensive players, all premier pass rushers, plus 49ers placekicker Robbie Gould.

Ends DeMarcus Lawrence of Dallas and Frank Clark of Seattle, linebackers Dee Ford of Kansas City and Jadeveon Clowney of Houston, and DT Grady Jarrett of Atlanta received non-exclusive tags. So did Gould, whose tag the 49ers announced Feb. 25.

That means the players can negotiate with other teams, which would be required to give up two first-round draft choices as compensation for signing the tagged player — something that rarely occurs.

Free agency begins next Wedneday.

• In other NFL moves, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed offensive tackle Donovan Smith to a three-year, $41.25 million contract. … The Indianapolis Colts and defensive tackle Margus Hunt agreed to a two-year $9 million deal. … The Detroit Lions have signed defensive end Romeo Okwara to a two-year undisclosed extension. … The New York Giants decided not to franchise tag three-time Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins, allowing him to test the free-agent market without any restrictions. … The Chicago Bears released linebacker Sam Acho. … The Houston Texans released cornerback Kevin Johnson.

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