By: Fred Riecke
Most people are under the impression that PETA was the driving force behind the closing of Santa Anita Park. Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Even though PETA’s dirty paw prints are all over the extinguishing of horse racing in Arcadia, Kathryn Barger is ultimately the culprit. And this isn’t the first time.
Kathryn Ann Barger is a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, representing the 5th District. Barger previously served as Chief Deputy Supervisor and Chief of Staff to her predecessor Michael D. Antonovich. Barger is a Republican from the wealthy city of San Marino, just a few furlongs from Santa Anita. It was Barger who ordered the track shut down as “non-essential” during the Covid-19 virus outbreak.
Barger hasn’t said much to defend her action. Even though racing continues at Golden Gate Fields and Los Alamitos, they are in different counties and thus not within Barger’s reach. However, if it was up to her, it appears that all the tracks in California would be closed. Last April, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger to send a five-signature letter to the California Horse Racing Board supporting further efforts to investigate and advocate for solutions to end the spate of horse fatalities at Santa Anita Park.
Despite the fact that this isn’t Barger’s first rodeo versus Santa Anita, she has taken virtually no heat for her recent decision or her prior action. Santa Anita’s responses to the shut down have been coiffed in extremely polite fashion. This is besides the fact that there are few reasons to prevent the horses from running.
As of now, there have been no cases of the Covid-19 at Santa Anita. There are approximately 1,000 people in the backstretch working, with many also living at the track. There are 1,700 horses at Santa Anita. Severe measures have been taken to curb the virus and still maintain proper care of the horses.
A release from Santa Anita stated that “At Santa Anita Park the health, safety and welfare of every person and every horse in our community remains our top priority. We are continuing to have constructive dialogue with the LA County Health Department and Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and her staff. In cooperation with our industry stakeholders, a proposal was submitted earlier this week which we believe was fully responsive to their requests.” There has been no response.
In the meantime, the revenue normally generated by racing which helps the citizens in these difficult times goes uncollected. As each day succumbs, jobs are threatened. The trainers and their staffs have done a remarkable job keeping the horses in training and race ready. But is this sustainable? How many owners will bail out saying this is the final straw? And how long will it take Barger to reply?
Should you wish to contact Mrs. Barger, you can reach her at kathrynbarger.lacounty.gov