Hundreds of Santa Anita Park workers caring for horses, worried about losing jobs

Santa Anita Park is closed for racing, but hundreds of workers remain caring for the horses, though many are worried about losing their jobs.
ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- With horse racing among the activities that are shut down in Los Angeles County, no fans are coming out to Santa Anita these days, but the park is still in limited operation.

And it's not just the horses that are living at the Arcadia facility. Many workers have been staying there as well.

Dagoberto Lopez has spent more than 35 years in the industry. We spoke with his son, Jayro, who works with him during the summer months. They commute from South Gate.

"We've heard a lot of people worried that they might start losing jobs because horse trainers or owners might ship out to other states where there are live racing happening," Jayro Lopez said.

Right now, hundreds of backstretch workers remain on the job. About 750 live on site where they look after the horses, making sure they're fed and walked.

"Everyone in the back side is wearing masks, everybody's got coverage, there are hand-washing machines, distancing put in place," Aiden Butler, Executive Director of California Racing Operations with Stronach Group, said.

But racing is not considered essential under L.A County's public health order. Operators argue racing without spectators is crucial to keep workers on the job and horses looked after.

Like millions across the country, the Lopez family worries about their health and making ends meet.

"I'm just depending on that one job that I have and my dad's job at the racetrack. And my paycheck alone wouldn't be able to sustain a family of five," Jayro Lopez said.

We reached out to the LA County Public Health Department. A spokesperson told Eyewitness News all indoor and private gathering events are prohibited until May 15.
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