LATimes - Santa Anita and the Thoroughbred Owners of California reached an agreement Saturday that will allow the track to reopen racing March 29. Santa Anita has been closed since March 5 after a dramatic rise in horse deaths, which is at 22 since Dec. 26. Initially, all race-day Lasix was to be prohibited, under a proposal by the Stronach Group, which owns and runs Santa Anita. But the compromise position is that it will be applied only to 2018 foals, or horses that won’t race until next year. Horses currently on Lasix will be allowed to continue to receive the medication on race day but in a maximum dosage of 5cc, instead of the 10cc currently allowed.
“This is a complete revision of the current medication policy for thoroughbred racing,” Stronach said in a statement late Saturday. “TSG is committed to the principles of safe horse racing for both equine and human athletes and to making California the best in the world.” Other changes were announced, such as those that affect claiming races at Santa Anita. It is eliminating races below $10,000 claiming and also maiden claiming for $16,000 and $20,000. Another change agreed upon by the trainers is that Butazolidin, used commonly to reduce pain and inflammation, can now only be given 48 hours before a race instead of 24 hours. Many of California’s medication rules exceed those internationally. However, almost all countries outside of the U.S. do not allow race-day medication, such as Lasix. Last year, only 3.6% of horses in the U.S. did not start with Lasix.
So I’m not sure how many people have been following what has been going on at Santa Anita, but it’s been a huge deal in horse racing. Long story short there was a shocking rise in horse deaths this season which caused the track to be shut down twice for safety concerns. It’s forced everybody involved in the industry to reevaluate basically everything. Well what has come out of these tragedies is a brand new set of rules for Santa Anita led by Belinda Stronach (owner of Santa Anita, Gulfstream, Golden Gate, Laurel) that are revolutionary for American horse racing. A drastic reduction in drugs and medication that trainers are allowed to give horses with an eye to eliminating lasix all together as well as eliminating lower tier races.
Now these changes didn’t come about with everybody holding hands and singing Kumbaya together. To be honest this is a very complicated issue. You have old school trainers and horseman who grind out a living and need every race to get by. They’ve done things their way for 100 years. But here is the deal. These new rules are an absolute no brainer. Anybody who fights the Stronach Group on safety rules either doesn’t love the horses or is too near sighted to see that these changes are inevitable.
Listen I love horse racing. I own horses. If I thought the industry wasn’t doing everything in it’s power to protect the animals I’d want no part of it. Like I hate greyhound racing because I hate the way the dogs are treated. I’ve never had that same impression with horse racing. I’ve never felt guilty. I’ve never felt like I was exploiting the animals. Whenever a horse breaks down I get sick to my stomach. When there has been as many deaths as there has been at Santa Anita it’s obvious things need to change. Everybody involved in the industry needs to feel the same way. It doesn’t even matter who is right and who is wrong when it comes to eliminating drugs and safety issues. Perception is almost as important as reality here. Get rid of the drugs. Get rid of the lasix. Do everything in your power to keep the horses safe. If you truly love the animals and truly care about the sport this is the only way to go forward. If anything it’s a shame it took this long for something to happen. Hopefully the rest of the country follows the Stronach lead and makes these changes universal.