Santa Anita to ban medication, whips on race days

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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ARCADIA, California (AP) — Santa Anita will ban the use of medication and whips on racing days after the 22nd horse fatality in 2 1/2 months occurred at the historic track last Thursday.

The move by owner The Stronach Group would make Santa Anita the first racetrack in the nation to impose such restrictions in a sport that has taken repeated hits for drug and safety issues while struggling to maintain its fan base and attract younger gamblers.

“What has happened at Santa Anita over the last few weeks is beyond heartbreaking,” said Belinda Stronach, chairperson and president of TSG. “It is unacceptable to the public and, as people who deeply love horses, to everyone at The Stronach Group and Santa Anita.”

Stronach announced the ban on drugs and whips for racing days at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California in what she called an open letter on the future of thoroughbred racing in California.

“The sport of horse racing is the last great sporting legacy platform to be modernised,” she said. “If we expect our sport to grow for future generations, we must raise our standards.”

Such changes would make the two Stronach-owned tracks the first in North America to follow the strict International Federation of Horseracing Authorities standards.

California's other major racetrack is Del Mar, north of San Diego, which is owned by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

It wasn't clear whether the bans would apply to other TSG-owned tracks, including Gulfstream Park in Florida and Pimlico in Baltimore, home of the Preakness Stakes.

The changes announced Thursday were welcomed by Jim Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club.

“Now, more than ever, we need to reform the regulation of the sport such that we will be in step with all other racing nations, where the rate of fatal injury is less than half that of North America,” he said in a statement. “And to those industry leaders that have said the status quo is OK, it is time to come clean and admit that our low standards and uneven rules remain a major weakness for the sport.”

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