Santa Anita Park unveils standing PET scan machine for horses

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- The beleaguered Santa Anita Park racetrack unveiled its new standing PET scan machine Friday, the first of its kind in horse racing.

"It's literally as easy as walking a horse from their stall to the MRI and PET, get the information and walk them back," said Dr. Ryan Carpenter, an equine veterinarian at the track.

Up until now, Santa Anita veterinarians had to rely on low-resolution bone scans when they searched for injuries. For more accurate scans, they had to truck a horse to a facility with a PET scan machine.

They said the track's new piece of technology will allow doctors to examine more horses and to do so with three-dimensional, high-resolution scans.

"We can actually visualize it on a computer screen, we can spin the image around and we can more precisely locate the location of lesions and...preexisting injuries," said Dr. Joe Dowd of the Southern California Equine Foundation.

Santa Anita Park is coming off a deadly year for its horses. From the start of its winter season last December, to the final race of the Breeders' Cup last month, 37 horses have died there.

In that span, the track's owners have cracked down on the use of riding crops and certain performance drugs, and now with the standing PET scan equipment they hope to scan about 200 horses a year and put a dramatic dent in the number of horses lost there.

"We know that the reforms are working," said Carpenter. "We're seeing it and we are going to continue to improve upon that."
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