A race begins on the turf track at Del Mar. Photo by Chris Stone
A race begins on the turf track at Del Mar. Photo by Chris Stone 

The California Racing Board was asked to investigate an increase in horse deaths and employee injuries at the Del Mar Race track, in a board meeting on Thursday morning.

Former California Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña requested the investigation with the support of businesswoman Martha Sullivan and other animal advocates in San Diego.

In this horse racing season, the death toll has risen to nearly 20 horses this season  at training and competitions at Del Mar, according to  These fatalities also place horse riders at risk. One exercise rider, Manny Rotella, age 65, was thrown from an injured horse on Aug. 20. He was carried from the track and taken to Scripps Hospital. The 3-year-old filly he was training, “Alicanto,” was euthanized.

“It is troubling for everyone to see workers injured and animals suffer and die on the tracks every week. An investigation is long overdue,” Saldaña said, in a statement.

There have been recent efforts to subsidize horse racing as revenues decrease that Saldaña has opposed. Assembly Bill 2863, also dubbed the “Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2016” would allocate funds for horse racing in California. Saldaña says it’s important to determine why horse races are seeing an increase in deaths and injuries before using government funds to support an activity that is becoming less popular.

“It is clear these deaths have an impact on attendees. I’ve seen people’s expressions as they read the signs — they no doubt wonder why the Racing Board isn’t doing anything about it,” Sullivan said, in a statement.