CBS Los Angeles

Closed-Door Horse Racing Continues At Santa Anita

Since March 12, Santa Anita Park has continued racing horses without fans on the track.

ARCADIA (CBSLA) – Every major sport in the nation is canceled, but horse racing continued at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia over the weekend, albeit with no fans allowed at the track due to the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE — Jockey Tyler Gaffalione aboard Gear Jockey enters the track prior to the Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf race at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 1, 2019, in Arcadia, Calif. (Getty Images)

On March 12, Santa Anita Park announced it would be closing to the public. However, racing has continued since.

On Friday, Santa Anita Park reported that it had decided to continue with the racing season without fans after consulting with both the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) and the Golden Gate Fields racetrack in the Bay Area.

Santa Anita Park’s owner, The Stronach Group, said it will donate all profits during this time to charities supporting COVID-19 relief efforts.

“Racehorses are living, breathing animals that require constant supervision and care — from feeding, to exercise, to veterinary care,” Santa Anita Park tweeted. “Horses cannot survive without human contact and care. Racehorses are conditioned athletes and standing in a stall without daily exercise is detrimental to their health, safety and welfare.”

Controversy has swirled around Santa Anita as dozens of horses have died while racing or training at the park. Since December of 2018, a total of 46 horses have died while racing or training at Santa Anita. Of those, nine deaths have occurred during the current winter racing season, which began in December.

A state investigation released earlier this month found no evidence that illegal medication or procedures contributed to the deaths of the 23 horses who died at the park between Dec. 30, 2018, and March 31, 2019.

Last June, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill giving the CHRB the authority to halt racing at Santa Anita if it so chooses.

Racing at Santa Anita was temporarily suspended in February of 2019 – following the 19th horse death — and again that March – following the 21st horse death — so experts could conduct testing on the park’s three tracks – the main, training and turf tracks — to try and pinpoint the issue.

Santa Anita was mired in controversy again in September when the New York Times published a report alleging that 2018 Triple-Crown winner Justify had failed a drug test after the Santa Anita Derby, and the CHRB kept the test result secret. Prominent trainer Bob Baffert vehemently denied that Justify was intentionally given performance-enhancing drugs, instead saying that that the Scopolamine found in Justify’s system after the horse won the Santa Anita Derby in April of 2018 was due to Jimson Weed in his feed.