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Santa Anita Horse Fatalities Linked To Pre-Existing Injuries, Pressure To Race, Poor Knowledge Of Anatomy

The 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1, 2014 in Arcadia. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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In the wake of the unusual media attention paid to horse deaths at Santa Anita Park in the 2018-2019 season, the California Horse Racing Board launched an investigation into the park’s practices. Today, the results of that investigation were released.

In a 77-page document, investigators found that while no laws appear to have been broken, 21 of the 23 horses that died at Santa Anita during racing or training had pre-existing injuries. All of the pre-existing injuries were associated with high exercise intensity.

Here are some other key takeaways:

  • 16 of the 23 horses who died during racing or training were in the care of trainers who had at least one other fatality in a one-year period
  • Many of the horsemen involved in the fatalities “did not display good working knowledge of [equine] anatomy”
  • Many trainers felt pressure to let their horses race, regardless of the animals’ health


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