LA Times: Santa Anita leads CA tracks in horse racing deaths - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

LA Times: Santa Anita leads CA tracks in horse racing deaths

Alan Zarembo reports in the Los Angeles Times that, according to state statistics, horses died while racing at Santa Anita at more than double the rate of those at the state's other three major thoroughbred tracks last year.  Santa Anita returned to a dirt surface in 2010 after three years using a synthetic track, and a consensus is now emerging among researchers that synthetic surfaces are safer than dirt for racing.

In three years of running on a synthetic track at Santa Anita, there were 26 racing deaths, or 1.5 fatalities per 1,000 starts. In the last fiscal year, after the change back to dirt, there were 12 fatalities, or 3.7 per 1,000 starts, according to data from the state horse racing board. By comparison, a total of 28 horses died last fiscal year racing on the synthetic surfaces at the three other major thoroughbred tracks — Del Mar Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields and Hollywood Park — at a rate of 1.8 fatalities per 1,000 starts.

The release of these statistics comes at a particularly troubling time, not only at Santa Anita – where three horse deaths during the production of the HBO drama “Luck” have drawn attention – but also at Aqueduct in New York, where 20 horses have died since Nov. 30, prompting the governor to order an investigation.

Officials from Santa Anita said the track remains committed to improving the dirt surface and spent nearly $1 million to modify the composition of the top six inches last season.

“It's really a science,” Santa Anita president George Haines said. “We monitor the track constantly.”

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