Del Mar faces scrutiny for fall horse racing meet after Breeders' Cup death at Santa Anita

Tod Leonard, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in Horse Racing

DEL MAR, Calif. -- From his seat beyond the finish line Saturday at Santa Anita, Josh Rubinstein was focused on the celebration in the seconds after Vino Rosso won the Breeders' Cup Classic.

It was only when the president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club turned his gaze to the left that he saw the ambulance on the track and the 4-year-old gelding, Mongolian Groom, in obvious distress.

"With an eighth of a mile to go, it had been an absolutely perfect weekend," Rubinstein said. "Unfortunately, the horse took a bad step and things changed dramatically."

Mongolian Groom later was euthanized because of a badly fractured left hind leg, and once again the horse racing industry was left to defend itself against those who seek to reform or banish the sport.

It also put Del Mar officials in the uneasy position of again being the clean-up crew sweeping up after a hurricane.

Thirty horse deaths at Santa Anita in six months from December through June preceded Del Mar's 2019 summer meeting, which was among the safest in the track's history. Four horses died in training and none during racing.


Beginning Friday, Del Mar is set to host its 15-day fall meeting on the heels of the Breeders' Cup death that followed six other equine fatalities during Santa Anita's fall meet.

"I'm not sure that there could be any more pressure on us than the beginning of the summer meet," Rubinstein said. "In a perfect world, we wanted nothing more than for Santa Anita to have an equally safe meet, and for the pressure to be turned down."

Instead, it has been ratcheted up. On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said racing needed "to take a long, hard look at (its) future in this country and we need to do it before more horses needlessly die."

Feinstein renewed her call for racing to be suspended at Santa Anita, which is scheduled to begin its winter/spring meet on Dec. 26 after Del Mar's meet closes Dec. 1.


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