New legislation is in place granting California the authority to suspend a horse race for safety reasons.
State Senate Bill 469 allows for California’s Horse Racing Board to suspend horse racing licenses if the board deems, it necessary to protect the safety of horses or riders.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill Wednesday, weeks after he directed the board to apply new safety measures and create a review group at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia for the remainder of the season. The law takes effect immediately.
The famed park, which will host the 2019 Breeders’ Cup in November, faced heightened scrutiny this year as a total of 30 horses died there this season.
After two horses died at the racetrack in a single weekend, the board asked Santa Anita to shut down for the rest of season.
But the board could not force the closure because it did not have the authority under state law to shut down a racetrack without the approval of the track’s operator, short of an allegation of a rule violation.
The new law changes that.
SB 469 updates the law to allow the board to take immediate action on race meet licenses if horse or rider safety is determined to be at risk, the governor’s office said.
“Business as usual has resulted in too many horse deaths,” Newsom said in a statement.
“I applaud the Legislature for taking action to expand the authority of the CHRB to cancel or move race meets when animal and human safety are at risk. This problem demands deeper partnership between the CHRB and track officials.”
The Stronach Group, which owns the track, said it has improved racing conditions over the years and credited those measures reducing the number of horse deaths in recent years.
Nevertheless, the string of deaths this year prompted an investigation of trainers and owners and a ban on Hall of fame horse trainer Jerry Hollendorfer after one of his thoroughbreds died at the track.
Newsom acknowledged Santa Anita’s cooperation with the review board, which used an enhanced process to determine if a horse is at elevated risk of injury before racing. A total of 38 horses were scratched or denied entry at Santa Anita after the review process was implemented.
“I call on race tracks around the state to hold themselves to the higher screening standards recently adopted at Santa Anita,” Newsom said. “This model can save horses’ lives.”