Breeders’ Cup Board Reaffirms Santa Anita Support

Santa Anita is controversially reaffirmed to host a record tenth Breeders' Cup in 2019. ©Richard R. Gross

Following its Thursday, June 27 meeting, The Breeders’ Cup Board reaffirmed its commitment to hold this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California on Nov. 1–2.

This will be an historic 10th time the Championships will be held at the venue in the 36-year history of the two-day event.

The Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita is certain to be under the national and international media and industry microscope in the wake of 30 horse deaths that occurred at the track from the beginning of its winter meet Dec. 26 through its close June 23.

Craig Fravel, President and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup, issued the following statement following the Board’s much-anticipated meeting:

“Foremost among the core values of the Breeders’ Cup are the safety and integrity of the competition and we hold ourselves, our host sites and our competitors to the highest standards of both. It is clear that meaningful and effective reforms and best practices have been implemented in recent months at Santa Anita through the collective efforts of The Stronach Group, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the California Thoroughbred Trainers, and the California Horse Racing Board. We fully embrace those reforms and will devote our time and energy in the coming months to further advance those efforts. We look forward to showing the world the best in Thoroughbred racing at one of its finest venues.”

The reforms enacted at Santa Anita during the winter meet included a ban on the use of the race day anti-bleeding medication Furosemide, trade named Lasix and Salix, as well as restrictions on the use of whips, regarded by many trainers and jockeys as safety precautions, but by others as abusive to horses.

The statement does not address whether those reforms, the prohibition of race day Furosemide and the restrictions on the use of whips, will be in effect during the Breeders’ Cup.

The Stronach Group (STG), which owns the track as well as others including Pimlico, site of the Preakness, the second jewel in the American Triple Crown, further agreed near the winter meet’s close to pre-race veterinary inspection of all horses to ensure their fitness to run and promised the addition of diagnostic testing equipment to help identify vulnerable horses.

The California Horse Racing Board was further empowered in a State bill passed unanimously and signed by Governor Newsom Wednesday to suspend racing immediately at any California racetrack deemed potentially injurious to the safety of horses, eliminating the need for a 10-day advance Notice of Intent.

On Monday, Hall of Fame Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was expelled from California’s Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields following the death of four-year-old gelding American Currency, euthanized after suffering a leg injury during training. It was the fourth death by Hollendorfer-trained horses during the Santa Anita meet, most prominently Breeders’ Cup Champion Battle of Midway, returned to racing after an unsuccessful season at stud and the death that turned problems at Santa Anita into national headlines.

Experts have debated whether problems at Santa Anita have been the result of excessive rainfall during this California winter, the use of drugs like Furosemide and bisphosphonates, which can mask bone problems, the track surface replaced with dirt in 2010 from synthetic Pro-Ride, the 85-year-old track’s foundation and drainage, or missteps by trainers or owners.