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31 horses have now died at Santa Anita this season

David McNew/Getty Images

A 4-year-old horse died Monday at California’s Santa Anita Park, bringing the total number of horse deaths this season to 31.

The gelding, Zeke, suffered a pelvic fracture on the training track and was euthanized, the park said Tuesday.

“We are carefully reviewing what factors could have contributed to Zeke’s injury,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinarian for The Stronach Group, which owns the park. “Santa Anita will continue to work closely with the California Horse Racing Board and will continue to be transparent with our stakeholders and all of our constituents, including the public, as more facts come in.”

The horse will undergo a necropsy, as is required for all on-track accidents, Benson said.

“The accident and the necropsy report will be reviewed by the California Horse Racing Board team to learn what, if anything, could have been done to have prevented the accident,” Benson said.

The death was the second on the training track in 2019. It’s the 31st horse fatality at Santa Anita this racing season, which began in December.

Park closed for evaluation earlier this year

Santa Anita Park began raising eyebrows and closed for evaluation in March after more than 20 horses died in the span of three months.

When it reopened later that month, there were numerous changes: Trainers had to apply two days in advance before working out a horse; jockeys had to replace whips with softer “cushion crops;” and restrictions on steroids, anti-inflammation drugs and race-day medications were instituted.

Over the summer, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) also began investigating trainers to see if they played any role in the string of horse deaths at the park.

The board had experts examine the remains of the dead horses for clues and worked with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which launched an inquiry into “whether unlawful conduct or conditions affected the welfare and safety of horses.”

Breeder’s Cup will stay in Santa Anita

Thoroughbred racing’s year-end championships will happen at the park as scheduled in November, the event’s board of directors said in June.

The 2019 Breeders’ Cup World Championships are scheduled for November 1-2 at Santa Anita.

The board unanimously decided to keep the championships in the Southern California park this year after noting “meaningful and effective reforms and best practices have been implemented in recent months at Santa Anita,” the event’s president said.

“We fully embrace those reforms and will devote our time and energy in the coming months to further advance those efforts,” Craig Fravel, Breeders’ Cup president and CEO, said. “We look forward to showing the world the best in thoroughbred racing at one of its finest venues.”

The event is considered one of the sport’s biggest and richest, with about $28 million in prizes doled out across the event’s 14 races last year.

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