Gov. Gavin Newsom of California called on Tuesday for a moratorium on racing at Santa Anita Park until the horses are evaluated by independent veterinarians, after the thoroughbred death toll at the track reached 29 this week.
“I continue to be troubled by the horse deaths at Santa Anita Park,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement. “Enough is enough. I am calling on the California Horse Racing Board to ensure that no horse races until they are examined by independent veterinarians and found fit to compete.”
The governor’s statement came just days after the California Horse Racing Board asked that the park owners shut down and forgo the remaining days of its meet, which ends on June 23.
But neither the Los Angeles-area racetrack nor California horsemen were willing to abandon the remaining dates at Santa Anita. In November, Santa Anita host the Breeders’ Cup, one of horse racing’s most prestigious annual events.
“We are collectively working on behalf of everyone in the sport — grooms, hot walkers, jockeys, exercise riders, starters, trainers, owners, track managers and every horse wearing a bridle and a saddle — to reform and improve racing every day,” said the Stronach Group, the track’s owner; the Thoroughbred Owners of California; and California Thoroughbred Trainers. “After extensive consultation among all partners, Santa Anita Park will stay open through the end of its meet to see these reforms through.”
The Stronach Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening.
The board is a regulatory agency and does not have the power to suspend horse racing without approval of the designated track. It does have the power to take such action if it goes through a 10-day notification period.
In March, after the 22nd horse death this season, the track said it would ban the use of drugs and whips on racing days.
Track officials have not publicly pinpointed the cause of the deaths, but drugs and whips are among the factors under examination. Track conditions and colder and rainier weather than usual have also been under inspection.
The park, a thoroughbred racetrack in Arcadia, Calif., is among the grandest venues in horse racing. But the recent spate of deaths and injuries has put pressure on the Stronach Group and the sport at large to enact meaningful measures to ensure safety of its equine athletes and the jockeys who ride them.