Santa Anita racetrack reopens after nearly month-long hiatus over series of horse deaths

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- Santa Anita Park has reopened for live horse racing on Friday, after the deaths of 22 horses this season prompted a temporary closure of the track.

Eight races are scheduled for Friday and 10 for Saturday. The track's big event, the Santa Anita Derby, is back on schedule for April 6.

Management at the track said they are humbled by the losses and that they've learned from them. Santa Anita Park is in the process of making dramatic safety changes that its managers say will make the rules at this track the most protective of horses in the world.

The reopening comes one day after the California Horse Racing Board voted unanimously to restrict the use of riding crops.

The move echoes restrictions announced earlier this month by The Stronach Group, which owns Arcadia's Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields in Northern California.

The proposed change will ban jockeys from using riding crops to spur horses to run faster. It will only let them use a crop for corrective safety reasons.

Jockeys could be fined or suspended if track officials determine they used the whips incorrectly.

The riding crop rule will not go into effect immediately. California law requires a 45-day public comment.

A new rule that is already in effect: no race-day medications.

Demonstrators were outside the park protesting, despite Santa Anita's proposed changes.

"We're not interested in reform or so-called welfare improvements, we want a complete ban on horse racing," said animal rights activist Amanda Lundberg.
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