Santa Anita racetrack closes temporarily after 19 horse deaths in 2 months

One of the most illustrious racetracks in the nation is temporarily closed after the deaths of 19 horses, including a Breeders’ Cup winner, in the past two months.

The unusual rate of fatal accidents at Santa Anita (Los Angeles County) — including three horse deaths in three days — has forced a track evaluation, halting training and racing until at least Thursday. By this point in the 2017-18 winter season, nine horses had died.

The move came after Battle of Midway, the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile champion, was euthanized after breaking down during training Saturday. Veterinarians determined Battle of Midway would have to be put down due to the severity of the breaks in one of his hind pasterns.

“There’s no words,” racing manager Fernando Diaz-Valdes told BloodHorse. “For us, it’s the loss of a child.”

Santa Anita officials met with the California Horse Racing Board on Sunday; after the meeting, it was announced the track would be closed to reevaluate the racing surface.

The track’s dirt surface was peeled back 5 inches on Tuesday so its base could be thoroughly examined. Thanks to a particularly stormy California winter, the track has seen 11½ inches of rain and unusually cold temperatures this month.

The track was closed for training on Monday and Tuesday so moisture content and soil consistency below the surface could be checked. Santa Anita officials brought in Mick Peterson, a University of Kentucky track safety expert, to review the subsurface and surface data.

In addition, Santa Anita has formed a committee of CHRB commissioner Alex Solis, a veteran trainer and jockey and a member of the track’s management team to evaluate the data and monitor feedback from trainers, jockeys and exercise riders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/chrb-santa-anita-battle-of-midway-fatalities-13649643.php.

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