Morning workouts in 2016 at Los Alamitos Race Course. File photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Two horses died after the first race at Los Alamitos Race Course, adding to the death toll in a year that has seen increased scrutiny of the sport in Southern California.

According to official Los Alamitos racing results on Saturday, Mighty Elijah — a 4-year-old gelding — “weakened between horses in the lane, was injured and pulled up inside the furlong marker and was vanned off,” while Into a Hot Spot — a 4-year-old bay gelding — “broke out and bumped a rival at the start, was hustled along early, fell back into the turn, gave way and collapsed after being unsaddled.”

A Los Alamitos official confirmed the deaths later Saturday.

Mighty Elijah was trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the 73-year-old Hall of Fame trainer who has had at least eight horses die in his care in 2019. Hollendorfer was banned from Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia and also from Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, but a judge granted an injunction in July that allowed him to continue doing business at the San Diego-area track.

Horse racing has been under the microscope since 37 horses died at Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia during the most recently concluded racing season.

The California Horse Racing Board is conducting an investigation into the rash of racehorse deaths at Santa Anita, and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office is also conducting a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Many animal rights groups have called for a statewide ban on the sport.

Some of those activists, led by a group calling itself Horseracing Wrongs, plans to hold a vigil for the two latest casualties at 11:30 a.m. Sunday outside Los Alamitos.

“It is only a matter of time before it happens again,” the group said in a statement. “RIP beautiful horses.”

Track workers and industry supporters, meanwhile, have said shutting down the industry in California would lead to thousands of job losses.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.