Santa Anita Closes Track for More Testing After Horse Deaths

Santa Anita Park announced late Tuesday that it will be closed for live racing and training while the one-mile main track undergoes more testing following the deaths of 21 horses, including 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway, in just over two months.

It was not immediately clear how long the track in Arcadia, Calif., would remain closed, or when the weekend’s series of stakes races would be rescheduled.

Game Winner and Improbable — both undefeated colts in Bob Baffert’s barn — had been scheduled to make their first starts of the year in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes, which had been set Saturday, along with four other stakes races, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.

“The safety, health and welfare of the horses and jockeys is our top concern,” said Tim Ritvo, The Stronach Group’s chief operating officer. “While we are confident further testing will confirm the soundness of the track, the decision to close is the right thing to do at this time.”

Former Santa Anita track superintendent Dennis Moore, who retired last Dec. 31, has been retained as a consultant, and The Stronach Group will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of existing safety measures and current protocols, according to the statement.

Last week, the track had been deemed “100 percent ready” after being closed to training for two days for what track officials called a thorough examination by the track’s superintendent, Andy LaRocco, and Mick Peterson with the University of Kentucky’s Agricultural Equine Programs.

Since then, two 4-year-old fillies have been euthanized after being injured on the main track. Eskenforadrink was injured during a race Saturday, and animal rights activists protested the following day outside the track. Lets Light The Way was fatally injured just hours before the announcement late Tuesday evening.