In the wake of what has been reported to be 21 breakdowns, or equine fatalities since the meet opened back in December, Santa Anita has shut down. The track announced yesterday they were suspending both racing and training indefinitely. Tim Ritvo, of the Stronach Group which owns Santa Anita declined to give a time frame for the closure. Santa Anita was facing mounting mainstream media pressure following the breakdowns. One of the fatalities was Battle of Midway, a Breeders’ Cup Mile winner. Additionally, protests were taking place outside the facility, and more may have been planned for the immediate future.
The main track at Santa Anita has taken a lot of rainfall recently. That is not common in Southern California, and is speculated by many to be the proximate cause of the problem. Interestingly enough, Santa Anita had the track tested and reported all was normal. The San Felipe, an important Kentucky Derby prep and points race was scheduled for this Saturday along with the marquee Santa Anita Handicap or Big Cap as it is called. Any decision to postpone or cancel those races could not be made lightly as both affect major scheduling in the handicap and three-year old divisions.
It is odd that only a few days after the track was tested and found to be safe and suitable for racing, that it was closed for additional testing to determine what was reported to be already determined. The track is bringing in Dennis Moore, the former track superintendent to consult on the matter. Moore left that position back in late December right around the start of this meet.
The track taking on water is not the only cause or problem being floated around. Some, including some horsemen, have voiced the opinion that the problem stems from, at least in part, to over racing, over medicating, and putting too much wear and tear on the horses.
It will be interesting to see if Moore’s findings differ from earlier ones calling the track safe. It will also be interesting if he deems the track safe, to see which direction this goes in and how Santa Anita and the industry respond to that.
The Breeders’ Cup is scheduled for Santa Anita later this year in November. You’d have to think there are no potential ramifications to that as whatever the issues are there is indeed time to address them. That would be assuming an aggressive and cooperative approach which does not exactly appear in the past performances of this game. Stay tuned.