It was expected to be among the most exhilarating days of the year at Santa Anita.

2 huge races at the historical Southern California track, consisting of one of the top preps for the Kentucky Derby.

Bob Baffert in your home, sending a pair of undefeated 3-year-olds.

But the location will be empty on Saturday.

After the deaths of almost two dozen horses in less than three months, Santa Anita has called a halt to racing while authorities try to get a manage on this alarming epidemic.

While that’s a good move by one of the nation’s premier tracks– and a big financial hit, to be sure– it does not go nearly far enough.

The entire sport of kings requires to get its home in order to ensure its long-lasting survival.

Frankly, it’s getting more difficult and harder to contest those animal-rights activists who would like nothing better than to shut down horse racing for excellent.

” Unfortunately, after practicing for 35 years with sport horses, including racehorses, I’m not a bit surprised,” said Dr. Sheila Lyons, who has actually dealt with Olympic equestrian groups and created the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. “We have a perfect storm.”

The tragic deaths at Santa Anita could not have come at an even worse time for horse racing, which has actually made a bit of a comeback after years of being crossed out as a fading, out-of-touch sport.

Needs to of the credit goes to a set of Triple Crown winners: American Pharoah swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes in 2015, ending a 37- year dry spell, and Justify did the same last spring. Tv rankings have been fairly strong for the significant events, showing the sport still has a grip on a large piece of the seeing audience regardless of relentless demonstrations from those who find it cruel and inhumane.

Now, just when everyone must be preparing for the major prep races that result in the most significant occasion of the year, the Kentucky Derby, the rash of deaths at Santa Anita– 21 because the season opened the day after Christmas– has cast a dark cloud over the sport.

” Certainly, one horse is a lot of,” said Tim Ritvo, chief running officer of the organization that owns Santa Anita. “We need to definitely take an action back and evaluate whatever.”

Thank you! You’re almost registered for Sports

Watch out for an email to verify your newsletter registration.

But this isn’t a problem restricted to one track.

Activist Patrick Battuello states that thousands of racing horses die every year in the United States– so much for that “one horse is a lot of” refrain– and the sport has actually unquestionably dragged its feet for far too long to institute common-sense modifications that would significantly improve the health and security of its 1,200- pound athletes.

Battuello files the annual death toll on his website, which lists 817 horses as eliminated while racing or training in 2018, plus another 100 that died on track grounds from what were described as non-racing conditions. However he states that’s simply the suggestion of a very deadly iceberg, failing to include states that deny his requests for details or don’t require the reporting of deaths throughout training. It likewise misses out on those that die at personal training centers.

” I can mention with full confidence that well over 2,000 horses are eliminated while racing or training on U.S. tracks every year,” Battuello said Friday.

He wonders why horse racing still exists when Ringling Bros. circus has failed, Sea World remains in decline, and greyhound racing has been voted out in Florida, essentially eliminating that sport in the U.S.

” What makes horse racing exempt?” Battuello asked. “This is not a sport at all. It’s a game of chance. But with the capability to gamble on different other things now, with full-service casinos and lotteries and sport wagering, there’s no reason for this to still be a thing in 21 st-century America.”

Especially the method it’s being run.

This is a sport that continues to be controlled by a hodge-podge of state-run companies, with no genuine oversight at the nationwide level. This is a sport that continues to come to grips with the unneeded drugging of horses, often to mask injuries that need to’ve been provided more time to recover. This is a sport that has far a lot of owners who are more concerned about making a fast buck than securing their animals.

” You now have a sport that is mainly made up of inexpensive racing, where the investors generally are expecting those horses to produce earnings for them,” Lyons stated. “This is no longer the sport of kings, so to speak, where one rich individual tries to reproduce a better horse than another abundant individual.”

Lyons keeps that the huge bulk of catastrophic racing injuries are avoidable, the outcome of repeated smaller injuries that go undetected or are simply ignored in hopes of getting a horse on the track as much as possible.

” These are orthopedic failures, not single-step failures. The horse didn’t action in a hole. The horse didn’t take a bad action,” she said. “If you bend a paper clip back and forth 200 times, then put it back in shape so it looks brand name brand-new and hand to me, the next time I flex it, it might come apart in 2 pieces despite the fact that I insist I did not flex it hard. That’s how these fractures occur.”

It starts with a microfracture. Then a small, partial fracture. Lastly, in the heat of a big race or perhaps just a light training session, the bone shatters.

It appears abrupt, a fluke.

Probably, it’s not.

” This is truly simply the regular physiological effect of an increasing work,” Lyons said. “Take a human runner. Many runners understand that when they increase their distances and after that say, ‘Kid, my shins were killing me last night after a run,’ that they require to back off for the next week. They require to let it heal. What they do with horses is provide anti-inflammatories without a diagnosis, then keep training and racing.”

Lyons said new innovation is being developed that would enable a CT scan to be performed in a matter of minutes on a horse’s front and rear legs, which could be an innovative advance in equine treatment. However the market should want to spend for the machines, which are anticipated to cost about $300,000 apiece. Also, there need to be enforcement in location to ensure that when a potential issue is discovered, the horse is kept off the track up until fully healed.

In the meantime, Santa Anita is concentrating on the condition of its track after an abnormally cold, wet winter season.

That’s all well and good, but it misses the bigger concern.

Horse racing needs far higher modifications, requires to show it really cares about the health of its equine athletes.

Otherwise, maybe Battuello and other animal-rights activists are right.

Perhaps the entire sport requires to be closed down.

” I have actually had the honor of working with a few of the best racehorses that ever lived. This is my childhood dream come to life,” Lyons said. “However I agree there are two options. Either fix it– or it disappears.”


Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at or at His work can be found at newberry

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights scheduled. This product may not be released, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.