27 Racehorses Have Died at This Track Since Dec. 26
At Santa Anita Park in Southern California on Wednesday, a 2-year-old colt named Derby River was injured while galloping during training and had to be euthanized, making him the 27th fatality at the racetrack since the start of its current meet on Dec. 26.
The deaths have commanded the public’s attention during a contentious Triple Crown season and have threatened to close down the sport in California.
The turn of events has put pressure on the Stronach Group — which owns the track and several others, including Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore — and the sport at large to put meaningful reforms in place to ensure safety of its equine athletes and the jockeys who ride them.
Dead horses, too many of them, have drawn a bull’s-eye around the sport.
Nearly 10 horses a week, on average, died at American racetracks in 2018, according to the Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database. That fatality rate is two and a half to five times greater than in the rest of the horse racing world.
The sport is divided. On one side are horse breeders and owners who back a federal bill to create a uniform national standard for drug testing and medication rules in racehorses that would be overseen by the United States Anti-Doping Agency. On the other are horse trainers and racetrack owners who find the proposed changes too expensive and intrusive.
In March, after the 22nd fatality at Santa Anita, the Stronach Group announced a ban on the use of whips and medication on racing days. It was applauded by animal rights activists but angered horsemen in California and beyond.
The Triple Crown got off to a raucous start after a multimillion-dollar disqualification in the Kentucky Derby confused and then angered some casual sports fans who tune in to horse racing for five weeks in the spring.
Then the day before Pimlico hosted the 144th running of the Preakness Stakes, the second race of the Triple Crown, a 3-year-old filly named Congrats Gal died soon after pulling up and finishing last in the Miss Preakness Stakes there.
On the day of the Preakness, Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Stronach Group, acknowledged the stakes were high, especially in California, where it would take just 600,000 signatures in a state of more than 39 million to get a ballot initiative before the voters to decide if the sport should be banned.
“We were really devastated and close to seeing racing go away,” Ritvo said of the California fatalities.
Here is a list of the horses that have died at Santa Anita. The New York Times will continue to update it.`
Derby River, an unraced 2-year-old colt, sustained a catastrophic shoulder injury while training and had to be euthanized at a nearby clinic. Mike Marten, a spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board, said that a necropsy would be performed and that the death would be included on the Santa Anita list even though Derby River had died at the clinic.
Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding, sustained an injury in a $10,000 claimer, one of the racetrack’s lowest levels, on May 25 and was taken off the track by van. He was euthanized the next day. He was trained and partly owned by Jerry Hollendorfer, a Hall of Famer. After being sold at a 2-year-old auction for $120,000 in 2012, Kochees was in 49 races, winning 11 times and earning more than $245,000 in purses.
Spectacular Music, ridden by Jorge Velez, pulled up in the backstretch after leaving the gate in a $25,000 claiming race on May 19. He was taken away with an apparent pelvis injury, and euthanized the next morning.
Commander Coil, a 3-year-old gelding, was euthanized after sustaining a shoulder injury while training. He was trained by Marcelo Polanco.
Arms Runner, a 5-year-old gelding, fell in a race, sustaining a catastrophic injury to his right front leg that led him to be euthanized. He was trained by Peter Miller and was sold at a 2-year-old in training sale for $525.000. Two days before Arms Runner was fatally injured, the track had reopened after a nearly monthlong shutdown in response to the equine deaths.
Princess Lili B broke her front legs while training. Trained by David Bernstein, she was a 3-year-old filly. She was not bought at auction.
Let’s Light the Way died during a morning workout. The 4-year-old filly won once in four races for the Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally. She was bought for $15,000 as a yearling.
Eskenforadrink died during a $16,000 claiming race of one mile. The 4-year-old filly had won two of her 12 lifetime races for the trainer Jorge Gutierrez. She was bought for $15,000 in 2016.
Charmer John died after a timed workout on the main track. The 3-year-old gelding had run only once for the trainer Mark Glatt. Charmer John was bought for $36,000.
Battle of Midway died after a timed workout. In 2017, he was third in the Kentucky Derby and won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He had been retired as a stallion but was ineffective getting mares pregnant. Battle of Midway returned to the racetrack and, three weeks earlier, had won the San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita. He was bought for $410,000 as a yearling and was trained by Hollendorfer.
Just Forget It died the same day after a timed workout. The 4-year-old gelding was trained by Librado Barocio.
Hot American died after running in a $25,000 waiver claiming race on the turf. The 4-year-old gelding was 1 for 10 lifetime. He was trained by Ryan Hanson.
Unusual Rider died after a timed workout on the main track. The 3-year-old gelding was 0 for 4 for the trainer Mike Puype.
Jager Time died after running a four-furlong timed workout on the main track. The 4-year-old colt was unraced and was trained by Jorge Periban.
Comegowithme died after running in a five-and-a-half furlong $50,000 maiden claiming race. The 3-year-old filly was 0 for 5 lifetime and was originally bought for $1,200. She was trained by Antonio Garcia.
Kid Cantina died after the Grade 3 $150,000 Robert Lewis Stakes, a prep race for the Kentucky Derby. He was a $15,000 purchase as a yearling and was trained by Barocio.
Spitfire died after a timed workout on the main track. The 7-year-old gelding won three of his 13 lifetime races. He cost $100,000 as a yearling and was trained by Brian Koriner, who trained last year’s California horse of the year, Spiced Perfection.
Dancing Harbor died during a timed workout. The 4-year-old gelding won once in eight races and was trained by Frank Lucarelli.
Last Promise Kept died after running in the Grade 3 $100,000 Megahertz Stakes, a mile race on the turf. The 5-year-old mare won three of her 12 lifetime races. She was trained by Tom Proctor.
Like Really Smart died after running in a $50,000 maiden claiming race over six and a half furlongs. The 5-year-old gelding was bought as a yearling for $5,000. He was trained by Leonard Powell.
Amboseli died after running in the Grade 3 $100,000 Astra Stakes, a one-and-a-half-mile turf race. The 7-year-old mare won two of 26 lifetime starts and was trained by Jim Cassidy, president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers.
Noise Mandate died after finishing last in her debut race, a five-and-a-half-furlong $20,000 maiden claiming race. The 3-year-old filly’s trainer was Michael Machowsky.
Derby Treasure died in a six-furlong $30,000 maiden claiming race. The 4-year-old filly had no wins in eight tries. She was bought as a 2-year-old for $3,500 and trained by Ruben Gomez.
Secret Street died during a five-furlong timed workout. He was an unraced 3-year-old trained by Bruce Headley.
Tank Team died during a race for 3-year-old maidens going six and a half furlongs on the downhill turf course. It was the third career race for the gelding. He was trained by Keith Desormeaux, who won the 2016 Preakness Stakes with Exaggerator.
Unusual Angel died in the same race as Tank Team. It was the colt’s fourth career race. He was trained by Alexis Barber.
Psychedelicat died during a $16,000 claiming race that was a mile on the dirt. He won twice in 18 career starts. He cost $90,000 as a yearling and was the first of three horses trained by Hollendorfer to die.
Joe Drape has been writing about the intersection of sports, culture and money since coming to The Times in 1998. He has also pursued these lines of reporting as the author of two best-selling books. @joedrape
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