Stronach Group chairman and president Belinda Stronach announced Thursday that all race-day medication will be banned for horses at its two owned California tracks, Santa Anita Park and Golden Gates Fields.

These will become the first tracks in North America to adhere to the recommendation of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) standard that allows no race-day medication.

Currently, the only race-day medication permitted in California is the anti-bleeding medication Furosemide, brand-named Salix, commonly referred to as Lasix.

The decision comes in the aftermath of a total of 22 fatal accidents at Santa Anita Park since the beginning of its winter meeting Dec. 26. The statement did not assign responsibility for any of the fatalities to the use of medication or other improper practices.

“What has happened at Santa Anita over the last few weeks is beyond heartbreaking,” Stronach said in the statement. “It is unacceptable to the public and, as people who deeply love horses, to everyone at The Stronach Group and Santa Anita. The sport of horse racing is the last great sporting legacy platform to be modernized. If we expect our sport to grow for future generations, we must raise our standards.”

The release stated that its revised practices include:

  • Banning the use of Furosemide, its brand name Salix, commonly referred to as Lasix
  • increasing the ban on legal therapeutic nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, joint injections, shockwave therapy, and anabolic steroids
  • transparency of all veterinary records
  • increasing out-of-competition testing
  • Increasing the time required for horses to be on-site prior to a race

The release also states The Stronach Group intends to invest in diagnostic equipment to detect pre-existing conditions and will address a growing concern about the use of riding crops (whips), the use of which is strictly controlled in Europe.

“There are some who will take a stand and tell us that it cannot be done,” Stronach added. “To them we say, ‘The health and welfare of the horses will always come first.’ We also say, ‘Not only can it be done, it is what we are doing.’ Racing at Santa Anita and Golden Gate is a privilege, it is not a right.

“Ultimately, we recognize the owners and trainers of these horses have the final responsibility to assess their fitness for racing and training. Our goal is to make every resource available to aid them in that determination. We are all in this together to make the horse the first priority.

“We have arrived at a watershed moment. The Stronach Group has long been a strong advocate for the abolishment of race-day medication, but we will wait no longer for the industry to come together as one to institute these changes. Nor will we wait for the legislation required to undertake this paradigm shift. We are taking a stand and fully recognize just how disruptive this might be.”