Horse racing in Del Mar in 2017. Photo credit: Chris Stone

Animal-rights activists plan to renew their calls for an end to horse racing in California on Thursday at Los Alamitos Race Track.

That’s where the California Horse Racing Board holds its monthly meeting. Members of Horse Racing Wrongs, a New York-based group that advocates for a nationwide racing ban, plan to call attention there to recent deaths at Los Alamitos.

The deaths, since July, include:

  • Free Ricky, a 3-year-old gelding, euthanized Sept. 7 after he left a race at the track, according to Rick Baedeker, executive director of the CHRB;
  • Da One Two Special, a 6-year-old gelding, euthanized Sept. 1 at the track after he fell in tight quarters during a 400-yard race, CHRB spokesman Mike Marten said;
  • Always Checking, a 2-year-old gelding, euthanized Aug 18, after being “pulled up by jockey Jesus Ayala shortly after the start of a 330-yard,” Marten said, and
  • Cuervo Foose, a 4-year-old gelding, died in July after suffering a shoulder fracture in a race.

According to board data, deaths at Los Alamitos had been on a downward trend – 41 horses died during the 2017-18 season, 56 in 2016-17, 63 in 2015-16, and 57 in 2014-15.

Since 2009, the annual number of horse deaths statewide at tracks ranges from 138 to 320.

The issue has drawn increased attention since 30 horses died at Santa Anita’s winter/spring meet, which concluded earlier this year. Racing was halted at Santa Anita for most of March while the track was examined. It resumed April 4 after the state board approved a series of safety measures.

The new rules include restrictions on certain medications and investing in diagnostic equipment to aid in the early detection of pre-existing conditions.

Del Mar’s famed track also became part of the horse-safety debate. Three horses died at Del Mar in July and a judge barred officials there from barring trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. He oversaw the care of four of the horses that died at Santa Anita.

Critic Heather Wilson said earlier this year that the board’s efforts to increase safety are not enough.

“Reform is not an option, this is beyond repair,” she said. “It is time to imagine a California that does not allow horse racing.”

Track workers have said shutting down the industry would lead to thousands of job losses.

The four recent horse deaths are not on the board’s official Thursday agenda. It features an expected decision on unallocated race dates in 2020 for tracks in Northern and Southern California, including Los Alamitos.

Los Alamitos is currently in the midst of its Los Angeles County Fair meet, which ends Sept. 22.

– City News Service