KY experts join investigation into 21 horse deaths at Santa Anita

KY experts join investigation into 21 horse deaths at Santa Anita
In this Oct. 30, 2013 file photo, an exercise rider takes a horse for a workout at Santa Anita Park with palm trees and the San Gabriel Mountains as a backdrop in Arcadia, Calif. (Source: AP)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Twenty-one racehorses died in 10 weeks of racing at Santa Anita. That is more than double the number from last year over the same time period. It is a shocking number that is hitting close to home.

“We have a thoroughbred breeding operation that is second to none,” UK Ag Equine Programs Director Mick Peterson said. “We have over a billion dollars of horses that are sold every year in Kentucky and they race all over the world.”

Peterson is among experts at the University of Kentucky studying soil samples from Santa Anita to determine if there are any irregularities. Peterson also conducted tests on the Santa Anita track with ground-penetrating radar that produces images of soil 16 inches below the surface.

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“What we're looking for is consistency of the composition,” Peterson said, “and that the hardpan and pad layers are completely even.”

Sixteen inches of rain have fallen at Santa Anita since live racing started on December 24. But, it is too soon to define weather as the critical factor in the spate of fatal injuries. Many other potential factors will also be investigated.

"Their problem is our problem,’ Dr. Mary Scollay, Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Equine Medical Director said.

Scollay offered assistance to California racing officials investigating Santa Anita.

“We are happy to offer any resources they might want,” Scollay said. “We trust they will conduct a thorough and comprehensive review."

Churchill Downs also released a statement indicating interest in learning from the problems at Santa Anita.

“Safety has been and always will be a topic of great importance to us,” Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers said. “As an industry leader, we’ve shown that we won’t hesitate to implement any change with proven safety benefits. Safety remains paramount.”

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