29th Horse Dies At Santa Anita One Day After Officials Tell Track To Stop Holding Races

Photo: Jae Hong (AP)

A three-year-old filly named Truffalino died Sunday after collapsing suddenly on the turf at Santa Anita. Truffalino, who didn’t suffer any visible limb injuries, is not to be confused with Formal Dude, who sustained a fractured pelvis near the finish line of another race at Santa Anita on Saturday and was euthanized shortly afterward, nor Derby River, who hurt his shoulder during a routine gallop at the track on Wednesday and was put to death at a nearby horse hospital, nor any of the other 26 horses who have died at the race track this year.

Truffalino’s death came one day after California Horse Racing Board officials told track management to stop racing before more horses died. In the wake of Formal Dude’s euthanization, the CHRB “recommended to Santa Anita management that they suspend racing for the seven remaining race days but that they allow horses to continue to train during that period.”

The CHRB cannot stop Santa Anita from holding races, only make recommendations. “Santa Anita management, after consultation with certain other industry stakeholders, believes that for a variety of reasons, the future of California racing is best served by continuing to race,” it said in the same statement, the day before Truffalino collapsed and died.

Last week’s rash of deaths is only the latest catastrophe to strike at Santa Anita. The track shut down in early March after news broke that 21 horses had died at the track since Christmas. The quality of the track was called into question after California experienced an unusually wet winter, though nobody could figure out exactly what was wrong, so they reopened the track. Yet horses keep dying, and state officials have started to step in.

On April 16, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the formation of an investigative task force. U.S. Senator (and child browbeater) Dianne Feinstein called for Santa Anita to suspend racing in late May. California Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced his support for California SB 469, which would give the CHRB the power to suspend horse racing licenses.

Santa Anita officials have implemented a series of incremental reforms, such as stricter rules around race-day medications, and they say they’ve made an impact. In a lengthy statement after Truffalino died, they said they would continue an in-depth investigation of their own, and that horse safety would be better served in the long run if the season were allowed to run its course so they could “reform and improve racing every day.”

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