Main track at Santa Anita Park reopens following 19 horse deaths in 2 months

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- The main track at Santa Anita Park reopened Thursday after being closed following the deaths of 19 horses in the last two months.

"We readily acknowledge it's an athletic endeavor injuries happen," Mike Willman said. "You want to minimize the effect of the injuries and you want to stay away from the big ones."

The reopening is a huge deal for Arcadia businesses like the Drinkers Hall of Fame along the Thoroughbred Racing Walk of Champions.

"Santa Anita is a big employer in this area and brings a lot of money into this area. Every year, we look forward to the Santa Anita meet and it's highly important that we keep racing at Santa Anita," bartender Daniel Funderburk said.

The inner track had remained open, but the main track was closed for soil inspection following the string of deaths. Last year, seven horses died within the same time period.

Santa Anita announced it was shutting down to test the surface after several weeks of heavy rainfall.

"Whenever it gets too muddy, it's very much a factor," Arcadia resident Doug Dennis said.

Santa Anita officials said the 1-mile track has been deemed 100 percent ready after testing and after using ground-penetrating radar to make sure the consistency is uniform throughout the track.

The owner of the racetrack provided a statement.

"We consider the safety and security of the athletes, both equine and human, who race at our facilities to be our top priority," Tim Ritvo said

Raquel McLaughlin, owner of Vintage Treasures and Antiques along the walk, said she knows many of the people at the racetrack.

"I myself know people that work at the racetrack. They're all very diligent. They love their animals. I'm committed to believe that they're out for the best interest of these beautiful thoroughbreds," she said.

PETA had planned a protest at the track, but canceled after meeting with park representatives who promised definitive steps would be taken.

The main track opened for training at 5 a.m., with races starting at 1 p.m.
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