Santa Anita has canceled racing indefinitely to allow track consultant Dennis Moore to inspect the surface, which has been plagued by a rash of equine fatalities in recent months.
Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, the track’s parent company, said on Tuesday afternoon that racing will not be held at least through Sunday. Ritvo declined to speculate on when racing would resume.
Racing was scheduled from Friday through Sunday and again for a four-day period beginning on Thursday March 14. It was not clear on Tuesday whether racing would be held on March 14, Ritvo said.
The cancellation comes days before one of the track’s biggest programs on Saturday, led by the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap for older horses and the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes for 3-year-olds, a key prep for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby on May 4.
“We’re going to discontinue training and racing until further notice,” Ritvo said in a phone interview. “We’ll give Dennis a chance to fully examine everything.”
Since Dec. 26, there have been 21 fatalities during racing or training, including a filly, Lets Light the Way, who was injured during training on Tuesday.
Last week, the track was closed for training for part of the morning of Feb. 25 and all day on Feb. 26 and 27 to inspect the base of the surface following four fatal injuries from Feb. 22-25 and a winter of prolonged rain.
Track officials and consultants said no irregularities were found during the inspection. Since the track reopened for training and racing last Thursday, there have been two fatalities – one in a race on Saturday and one in training on Tuesday.
Tuesday, Santa Anita announced that Moore has resumed working with Santa Anita as a surface consultant, a position he left at the end of December. Moore, 69, is currently employed as track superintendent at Del Mar and Los Alamitos.
Moore was scheduled to be at Santa Anita on Tuesday afternoon to begin inspection of the course, the track said in a statement announcing his return.
Ritvo said Moore will be given ample time to conduct his studies.
“I want to continue to remind everybody that we’re taking every precaution necessary,” Ritvo said. “We still had an incident this morning.
“It can be muddy and the next day drying out and for some reason the horses are not adjusting to it,” Ritvo said. “Whether it’s in the training or our fault, I don’t think there is one thing you can blame it on. It’s not good.”
The decision to cancel racing this weekend disrupts the preparation for some of the track’s leading runners, notably Triple Crown hopefuls who would have started in Saturday’s $500,000 San Felipe Stakes.
Ritvo said on Tuesday that a decision on when the San Felipe and other races will be rescheduled will be made in coming days. Ritvo emphasized that the priority was working with Moore on the surface.
Before racing does resume, Ritvo said the trainers will be given time to prepare their horses.
“We want to gather all the information we can,” he said. “We have to give people the chance to train. It could be possible the following weekend that Dennis gives the okay that people can train over the track.”
Sunday, the track canceled racing on Thursday of this week in anticipation of a heavy rainstorm predicted for Tuesday night and Wednesday. The track had scheduled an 11-race program on Friday.
Jim Cassidy, the president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, said some trainers may opt to ship to Los Alamitos or the San Luis Rey Downs training center to give their horses a chance to exercise while Santa Anita is being evaluated.
“This is going to be a problem,” Cassidy said. “There are only so many days you can walk horses. It makes things very difficult.”
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the California Horse Racing Board said the horse fatalities will be a subject of discussion at the regulatory agency’s monthly meeting on March 21. Officials with The Stronach Group are expected to speak at the meeting.
Chuck Winner, the chairman of the racing board, said Tuesday afternoon that he has been in discussion with Santa Anita officials frequently in recent days.
“There is no doubt they are as concerned about safety as we are,” Winner said.
saratoga living reached out to the New York Racing Association about the news. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.
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