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US track bans race-day drugs, whips after 22nd horse death

Los Angeles: Santa Anita Park suffered a 22nd horse fatality since December 22 on Thursday (US time), just one day after the main track was reopened for training.

The horse suffered a severe injury and was euthanised. Princess Lili B broke both front legs at the conclusion of an 800-metre workout.

It was only the second day of training on the main track after Santa Anita suspended racing last week in response to the previous deaths.

In a statement, the track's operator, the Stronach Group, said it was moving immediately to ban the use of race-day medications and jockey whips.

No definitive reason for the rash of horse fatalities has been identified.

"What has happened at Santa Anita over the last few weeks is beyond heartbreaking. It is unacceptable to the public and, as people who deeply love horses, to everyone at The Stronach Group and Santa Anita," said Stronach Group chairman and president Belinda Stronach in the statement.

"Today, I’m announcing The Stronach Group will take the unprecedented step of declaring a zero tolerance for race day medication at Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields.

"We have arrived at a watershed moment. The Stronach Group has long been a strong advocate for the abolishment of race-day medication, but we will wait no longer for the industry to come together as one to institute these changes.

"Nor will we wait for the legislation required to undertake this paradigm shift. We are taking a stand and fully recognise just how disruptive this might be.

"Additionally, it is time to address the growing concern about use of the riding crop. A cushion crop should only be used as a corrective safety measure.

"While we firmly believe our jockeys have not purposely been mistreating their mounts, it is time to make this change.

"Ultimately, we recognise the owners and trainers of these horses have the final responsibility to assess their fitness for racing and training. Our goal is to make every resource available to aid them in that determination. We are all in this together to make the horse the first priority."

After repeated inspections and dirt sampling, the rehiring of track consultant Dennis Moore and enhanced safety protocols, Santa Anita has been trying to move toward a resumption of racing on March 22.

In all, 196 horses safely worked out at the track when it reopened on Wednesday (US time), according to a Santa Anita spokesman - 112 on the main track and 84 on the training track, a softer course where there has yet to be a fatal injury during the American winter/spring meet.

Changes instituted by Santa Anita in response to the deaths included a requirement that trainers give 24-hour notice on workout requests so that veterinarians can review horses in advance and spot possible concerns.

Santa Anita continued to conduct training workouts after the latest injury.

The injuries, though, have many long-time horsemen voicing concerns.

"It's mind-boggling to me," said trainer Art Sherman, who trained Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.

"I've never seen this as long as I've been around. In horse racing, you're always going to have accidents.

"I don't know what to make of it. I'm at Los Alamitos, and we haven't had any problem at all. It's scary seeing all these breakdowns."

Los Angeles Times

Article courtesy of Nine and The Sydney Morning Herald

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