By Dan Ross
A small group of protestors and the news media were back in force at Santa Anita Sunday after Tikkun Olam (Temple City) collided with another horse on the training track and was euthanized. It was the third equine fatality in as many days at the track.
Tikkun Olam’s fatal injury followed breakdowns by Harliss (Midshipman) Friday and Uncontainable (Acclamation) Saturday, respectively–both of which were on the turf–and prompted the strongest denunciation yet from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“Three dead horses in three days requires immediate action,” PETA spokeswoman Brooke Rossi said. “The California Horse Racing Board was recently given the authority, in legislation backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, to suspend racing, and now it must do exactly that.
“There is no sense in the board allowing racing and deaths to continue until it enacts all its own pending regulations and acts on the recommendations of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. If it takes the closure of a track to stop the deaths, then close the track.”
Last year, a state bill passed unanimously granting the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) unilateral authority to suspend racing at a licensed California racetrack without a 10-day public notice period. According to CHRB spokesperson, Mike Marten, the board has not discussed the option of exercising that new authority at Santa Anita at this time.
“We have no evidence at this time that the racing surfaces played a role in the fatalities,” Marten explained. “And therefore, there’s no active discussion in moving the races away from Santa Anita.”
On Monday, California Thoroughbred Trainers CTT) president Eoin Harty emphasized the scrutiny horses in California are currently put under during training and in pre-race examinations.
“We are going above and beyond on what is expected of any trainer anywhere, that I know of,” Harty said. “With the exception of Hong Kong, I can’t think of any tighter constraints on a trainer than there are in California.”
The fatalities over the weekend were picked up across multiple local news outlets. “We want to bring awareness to the public because we believe when the public knows better that they will do better and that they will fight to protect the rights and at this point the lives of animals that have no say or choice in this bloodsport,” Amanda Lunberg of the group Horse Racing Wrongs told the local CBS station.
She gave a similar interview to Fox-11 News, which sent a helicopter to the scene that appeared to fly low over the horses while they were racing.
Local news celebrities even weighed in on Twitter. “The ‘improved safety measure’ at Santa Anita aren’t working…” tweeted ABC-7’s anchor Jory Rand after the accident on the training track.