LOS ANGELES -- As the most tumultuous meeting in Santa Anita's 85-year history creeps toward its close June 23, the one constant the past few months has been change, be it how trainers do their job, how horses do their work or how many days a week racing is real.
In the midst of an equine fatality crisis, Belinda Stronach, chief executive and president of the Stronach Group, instituted a series of changes with the hope of regaining public confidence that the sport is moving forward and will be safer than it's ever been for horses and jockeys.
Stronach got the buy in, at times reluctantly, from owners, trainers and jockeys that reforms were necessary and there was also the promise that these measures, to include a reduction in race-day Lasix and use of riding crops only for safety, would be implemented at all the Stronach tracks.
"If it's good for Santa Anita, why isn't it good for Gulfstream Park (in South Florida)?" Stronach told The Los Angeles Times in an exclusive interview. "Why isn't it good for our tracks in Maryland (Pimlico and Laurel)? It really is about horse and rider welfare."
Except Stronach found that making revisions in California was easier than in Maryland and Florida.
"It is most disappointing that the Stronach Group at no time sought to engage or have any discussions with (horsemen) regarding their recent divisive decision to seek to implement a ban on the use of Furosemide (Lasix) on race day for our horses," said Timothy Keefe, president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, and Michael Harrison, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.
The joint statement went on to say if the Lasix reduction were implemented, it could cause "irreparable harm to many of our horses."
Michael Algeo, chairman of the Maryland Racing Commission, followed up by saying, "They can make an announcement, but it's in violation of the (state) regulation. I don't think you'll see it implemented here."
While opposition in Florida hasn't been as loud, it was just as united. Horsemen in the state have long fought any proposals to curb the use of the drug used to treat Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhaging (EIPH) or horses bleeding from their lungs while running. Dr. Dionne Benson, chief veterinary officer of TSG, was sent to Florida to open discussion with the horsemen.
"All jurisdictions are different," said Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of TSG. "Some of them have regulatory change, some have statute change. So, there is a lot of work to be done but we have to continue on."