Santa Anita Park creates new health and safety rules following deaths of 21 horses in 2 months

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- Santa Anita Park reopened its inner-exercise track in Arcadia on Friday and instituted new rules after 21 horses died over the last two months at the park.

"It's shaken everybody and I think it's shaken everybody in the industry. This has been unacceptable. That's why we're taking some very proactive and substantive rules to get this right," Mike Willman said.

Park officials said the horses will only be allowed to gallop and jog on the exercise track.

In addition to that, the new health and safety rules include forcing trainers to apply for permission at least 24 hours in advance to work a horse or to do a timed high-speed training exercise.

Racing was suspended this week following the spike in horse deaths.

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Another horse died Tuesday at Santa Anita Park, bringing the death toll to 21 horses within the last two months, and prompting the track to suspend racing indefinitely.

A racetrack spokesperson said this will allow track veterinarians to inspect the horses.

"We've hired a number of new veterinarians, including a director of equine welfare," Willman said.

So far, it's still unclear what led to the horses' injuries and deaths, but that the recent heavy rains may have been a factor.

PETA said the new protocols are a step in the right direction, adding most horses break down because they have a pre-existing injury.

"It's very good that they're going to be looking at workout records and at past performances and races, that they're going to increase physical examinations. All of those things are going to help keep injured horses off the track," said Kathy Guillermo, with PETA.

Experts spent Thursday examining the racetrack, and park officials said they're "happy with it."

Several stakes races had been set for this weekend but so far, there's no official word on when the main race track will reopen.
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