Morning workouts at Los Alamitos
A rider participates in morning workouts at Los Alamitos Race Course in 2016. File photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A state board this week signed off on plans to address equine deaths at the Los Alamitos Race Course.

Officials implemented the steps at Los Alamitos following the California Horse Racing Board’s July 10 decision to put the track on notice. Racing, the board warned, could be suspended without Los Alamitos taking action.

The plan adds several layers of oversight at the race course.

At that time, at least 19 horses had died since the beginning of the year after suffering racing or training injuries. Another 10 succumbed to gastrointestinal and other types of illnesses. In the following two days, two more horses suffered fatally injuries at the track, bringing the death total for the year to 21.

The new plan includes adding another veterinarian to be a “roving observer of horses in training, while entering, exiting, or on the track.” A “security steward” will oversee veterinary and barn practices.

The new plan also includes an “entry review panel” of experts who have the authority to scratch horses for races.

Any death at the track triggers a review.

“I can assure you we’re all kind of humiliated by this whole thing,” Los Alamitos Race Course owner Dr. Ed Allred told the board. “We’re going to do all that we can, everything we possibly can, to do things properly in the future. Some of our trainers are upset, but they will adjust to it.”

Commissioner Dennis Alfieri replied that if trainers were disgruntled, “You know what, too bad. There are a lot of trainers who call themselves – quote, unquote – trainers and they’re not trainers. They have one or two horses and they bring them in. That has always made me uneasy about this whole industry – people who call themselves trainers who shouldn’t be trainers … If these trainers don’t want to step up to the plate and raise their own bar, they should be out.”

Commissioner Wendy Mitchell said, “What we’re doing as a commission is sending a message to the trainers and jockeys … We want to give the track at Los Alamitos the backbone and knowing they have our support to crack down.”

Dr. Rebecca Fitzgerald, the veterinarian on staff at the track, said the plan, put in place last week, has shown results. She called it “instrumental” in taking a couple of horses out of races.

“Recently what happened, you just can’t have,” she acknowledged.

Commissioner Alex Solis, a former jockey, praised the plan.

“I wish we had this kind of plan when I was riding. I would still be riding,” Solis said.

At the July 10 meeting, board Chairman Gregory L. Ferraro said, “I think there is a culture there with the veterinarians and trainers pushing the envelope.”

The board’s veterinarian, Dr. Rick Arthur, said he thinks Los Alamitos is fine and is not the issue. “What I do see that is questionable is training and horse practices … veterinary practices … multiple and repeated injections often without diagnostic procedures.”

Three of the 21 dead horses would not have been eligible to race under the new protocols, Arthur said. He added that he was “encouraged” by Allred’s plan.

– City News Service