Santa Anita begins inspections of closed track in wake of horse deaths

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- Track inspections are beginning at Santa Anita Park after a spike in horse fatalities has cast doubt on the safety of its racing surface.

In the past two months, 21 horses have been put down after being injured at the track. Santa Anita has suspended thoroughbred racing indefinitely as it addresses track issues.

Santa Anita officials are hoping they can figure what is to blame for the spree of horse injuries and deaths.

Racing fans are watching closely too. Some were even on hand before sunrise.

"It's going to ruin the sport," said racing fan Tom Noonan. "Because activists are going to get on this. They need to do something."

The 21 horse deaths is twice the normal rate. Many blame the wet weather.

"The rain does seem to be the leading candidate in terms of a common factor," said Santa Anita spokesman Mike Willman. "You're seeing it around Southern California. Soils - they do funny things, they become unstable with a lot of water in a short period of time."

Racetrack officials say when you look at the big picture racing in California has actually gotten safer. The state has seen a 60 percent drop in horse fatalities in the past 13 years, according to Willman.

Animal rights advocates say the horses are being run too often. Fans also have their own theories. Noonan suggests two-year-olds are too young for the rigors of racing.

Santa Anita is hoping experts will provide some answers. In the meantime there will be no racing or training.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.