27th horse death is reported since Santa Anita meet opened Dec. 26

John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Horse Racing

LOS ANGELES -- A 27th horse has died since Santa Anita opened its meeting on Dec. 26 after the colt River Derby sustained a catastrophic injury while training Wednesday morning. After six weeks without a death, there have been four fatalities since May 17.

River Derby, an unraced 2-year-old bought in March for $50,000 at a sale in Florida, fractured a shoulder while galloping, according to his trainer, Ruben Gomez.

The horse was euthanized at a clinic in Chino, Calif., so it was unclear whether the death would technically be called a Santa Anita fatality. However, Mike Marten, California Horse Racing Board spokesman, said "in the interest of full transparency, we will be treating it as an on-track training death and do a full necropsy and count it in the statistics."

Gomez was obviously still pained by the incident when contacted on Thursday.

"I sent her to hospital but there was nothing they could do to save him," Gomez said. "It can be a common injury in babies. He just came up from Florida."

Gomez said the horse was sent to Chino Valley Equine Hospital because the clinic has the reputation of having the best specialist in regard to River Derby's type of injury.

"I am so sad," Gomez said. "I ride my horses every day and I get so attached to them, especially my babies."


The death could be a blow to Santa Anita's hope of keeping the Breeders' Cup, which it is scheduled to host on Nov. 1-2. The Breeders' Cup board meets in Lexington, Ky., during the last week of June. It is expected a decision will be made on the host of this year's event at that meeting.

If the Breeders' Cup is moved, it's expected that Churchill Downs would be the host. The track has expressed a willingness to host the event should it be taken from Santa Anita. Its experience in running the Kentucky Derby every year and a glut of hotel rooms makes it an easy back-up choice. The University of Louisville, which plays its football games down the street from Churchill Downs, is on a bye week on Nov. 2.

The death of Derby River was the second for Gomez, who had Derby Treasure, a 4-year-old filly, go down on Jan. 11 in a $30,000 maiden claiming race. She was winless in eight starts before that race.

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