With 10 days to go before the start of Santa Anita’s fall meet, which include the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, a 4-year-old gelding named Zeke (Gio Ponti) fractured his pelvis during a work on Santa Anita’s training track Monday morning and was euthanized. The Dean Pederson trainee’s death brings the total number of fatalities at the Arcadia oval since Dec. 26 to 31.
Zeke, who was claimed by Pederson Aug. 29 at Del Mar and had not run since, was pulled up by his rider when he recognized an issue and was attended to by a team of on-track veterinarians led by April Mauro, according to a statement released by The Stronach Group Tuesday evening. He was vanned back to the barn where the pelvic fracture was diagnosed. Initially considered stable, his condition deteriorated that evening.
“Everyone at Santa Anita and throughout The Stronach Group is devastated by this loss,” said Dr. Dionne Benson, Chief Veterinarian for The Stronach Group. “We are carefully reviewing what factors could have contributed to Zeke’s injury. 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. Zeke will undergo a necropsy run by the University of California–Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine, as is mandatory for all on-track accidents. 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.”
There were no racing fatalities during Del Mar’s summer meet, but Zeke’s death is the fifth training fatality in Southern California since Santa Anita closed June 23, according to an L.A. Times article. It was the second training track death of 2019.
Following the initial string of deaths over the winter, Santa Anita issued a series of new safety protocols and did extensive work on the surface of its main track. Part of the new safety measures applied to breezes starting with 48-hour notice of an intended work.
The TSG statement explained the policy in the following paragraph: “Every horse who works [a timed training run] at Santa Anita Park is required to undergo the same safety protocol, which includes applying 48-hours in advance to work, evaluation of their recent workout and racing history to identify risk factors and, for approximately 20% of those horses, a physical examination by an association veterinarian. In addition to those measures, every horse is required to be examined by that horse’s private veterinarian within five days prior to its workout. Horses working out are required to follow the same strict medication reforms enacted earlier this year.”
The TSG statement on Zeke’s death finished by saying, “The Stronach Group and Santa Anita’s safety measures put horse and rider safety above all else. There is an expected level of safety and accountability that is required to participate at a Stronach Group racetrack. If anything less is found which could have contributed to this accident, it will be addressed immediately. Santa Anita and The Stronach Group remain committed to leading transformative change in this traditional sport.”
Santa Anita is set to kick off its fall meet Sept. 27.