Santa Anita workers worried about their jobs hold rally

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- Hundreds rallied at Santa Anita Park in support of the 3,000 track employees who take care of the horses.

They're worried about their jobs following the deaths of 29 horses since Dec. 26.

"Here at the race track they offer us scholarships that is for all backside workers. Since my dad works here, he's been working here for more than 53 years. It's money that we need in order to pay the rent," said Jayro Lopez, who works at Santa Anita Park.

This is Lopez's eighth season working at Santa Anita. He's studying at Cal State Long Beach to earn his bachelor's degree. Lopez is worried about the track employees who would have nowhere else to go.

"They've worked in this industry their whole lives. Most of them were born it. For better or for worse, it's kind of all they know, so it would be making a whole lot of people homeless if this place closed down," said Gary Benson, an assistant trainer at Santa Anita.

Gov. Newsom, Sen. Feinstein and animal rights groups like PETA have called for the track to be closed until more can be done to prevent the deaths. Those who work in the backstretch at Santa Anita say even one death is too many, but say horse deaths are an unfortunate reality of the sport. During a one year period ending last year, 44 horses died at Santa Anita.

Those who work in the stables applaud the measures the track has taken since it shut down operations for most of March and blame track maintenance and heavy rains for the injuries to horses.

"The people here love the horses as much as they lover their own families. They live with them. They take care of them," Benson said.

In a statement, PETA said "The backstretch workers have very little chance of continuing employment if horses keep dying. Safe horses mean safe jobs. If these workers don't already support continuing reform, they should get behind it right now."

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