Jockeys, racehorse owners spar with animal advocates amid string of horse deaths at Santa Anita Park

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- There were heated exchanges at Santa Anita Park during a meeting addressing the recent spike in horse deaths.

Jockeys and owners sparred with animal advocates at Santa Anita Park during Thursday's regularly scheduled meeting of the California Horse Racing Board.

The meeting was scheduled, but the fireworks were not.

Jockeys and racehorse owners walked in to set the record straight.

"I think it's humiliating to hear people speak about this who are not educated," racehorse owner Nick Casado stated. "I welcome anyone in the room to come back and see how these animals are taken care of."

As members of the California Horse Racing Board listened, the other side passionately vented disgust for a sport they say kills.

"How many more horses will it take to be killed in order to convince you horse racing is wrong?" advocated Heather Wilson.

The board opened up public comment during this regularly scheduled meeting, giving each speaker three minutes.

Nick Casado told Eyewitness News that he has been racing his entire career at Santa Anita Park.

"We do make decisions for animals, because they can't make decisions for themselves," he said.

Last week, 3-year-old Commander Coil suffered a rare shoulder injury while galloping.

He was the 24th horse to die at Santa Anita Park since late December.

The gelding's death was the first death in six weeks since racing had resumed after a park shutdown due to concern over the large number of deadly injuries. Another horse died days later at the track, raising the number of dead horses at Santa Anita to 25.

"Everything we do is above board, and in the open," said Rick Baedeker, Executive Director of the California Horse Racing Board. "Every ruling is published. Every fatality is published."

"I think we pay a price for our transparency. I'm not saying that's wrong. That is the right thing to do," he added. "That will always be the right thing to do, but I can't say that's necessarily the same for the other sports."

Board members also officially backed a proposed California Senate bill that would allow the board to hold an emergency meeting to consider a track closure, if another emergency arises.
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