PD Editorial: Keeping the ‘sport of kings’ safer

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Twenty-eight horses have been killed after suffering catastrophic injuries at the Santa Anita racetrack in Southern California since Dec. 26 — an average of more than one each week. When the state’s horse racing commission recommended canceling the remainder of the season — a measly six racing days — the track’s management said no. We’re not sure which is more infuriating — the refusal by Santa Anita officials, or the fact that the California Horse Racing Board doesn’t have emergency powers to close the track on its own in response to health and safety concerns.

The board can act only at a regularly scheduled meeting, which requires 10 days’ advance notice. Santa Anita’s season ends June 23, leaving little time to act. Given the cluster of deaths, the board should have taken stronger action sooner. Its failure to do so doesn’t change the fact that it needs the ability to act quickly when horses and riders are at risk. A bill by state Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, would allow the horse racing board to convene immediately, as outlined in the state’s open meeting law, to consider temporary track closures to protect the health and safety of horses and riders.

It’s not too late for Santa Anita’s management to reconsider. We hope they do. Regardless, lawmakers should pass Dodd’s bill to ensure that conditions are safe at California race tracks.

You can send a letter to the editor at letters@pressdemocrat.com

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