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CHRB investigation finds no smoking gun in Santa Anita horse deaths

John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Horse Racing

The California Horse Racing Board's investigation into the fatalities last year at Santa Anita validated many of the prevalent theories as to why there was such a spike in deaths, but found no smoking gun or overriding reason for what happened.

The 76-page report was released Tuesday and pointed to 16 key findings, many a curation of data from necropsies. The study was confined to the 23 deaths between Dec. 30, 2018, and March 31, 2019. Seven more horses died during the track's winter/spring meeting. When the track reopened for its one-month fall meeting there were seven deaths, including Mongolian Groom in the Breeders' Cup Classic, the biggest race of the year for older horses.

This year there have been nine fatalities, compared to 21 to this date last year. However, Santa Anita is running fewer races and has a smaller horse population.

Most of the findings dealt with the well-known idea that horses who suffer a catastrophic breakdown have preexisting conditions. Many of those conditions are not detected because of a lack of proper equipment or way to detect the problem.

The report said:

-- 21 of the 23 horses had pre-existing pathology.

 

-- 19 of 22 catastrophic breakdowns had sesamoid bone fractures related to racing and training intensity.

-- 11 of the horses had corticosteroid injections in one of their joints.

-- 14 of the 22 had high-intensity exercise followed by a decline in activity in the month prior to their breakdown.

-- 7 of the 22 had six months between starts at some point in their racing career.

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