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Immediate Equine Mortality Review Proposed to CHRB

Del Mar's quick mortality review process is to be examined by the CHRB.

CHRB officials plan to examine the quick mortality review procedures in place at Del Mar

CHRB officials plan to examine the quick mortality review procedures in place at Del Mar

Benoit Photo

A proposal from California Thoroughbred Trainers executive director Alan Balch to conduct an immediate meeting following an equine fatality was well received by commissioners during a May 19 California Horse Racing Board meeting. Balch leads the state's accident prevention task force.

The proposed meeting of the parties associated with the horse along with track and regulatory officials would be in addition to one in which necropsy results are included roughly a month later. The initial meeting would be designed to provide "immediate perspectives," Balch said.

Del Mar is currently the one California track to stage such meetings, Balch and others at the CHRB meeting said.

Though Balch cautioned that quick meetings would be "potentially difficult, emotionally and otherwise," they would create the possibility that "some potential or actual factor in the accident will be revealed which can be acted upon immediately."

CHRB chairman Dr. Greg Ferraro appeared open to the concept, though CHRB executive director Scott Chaney was more measured in his comments, remarking that the CHRB's post-mortem review programs are efficient and timely.

Balch said his proposal of an initial meeting would come in advance of that more scientific report. He added the practice could be introduced as a directive from track stewards.

Photo: Courtesy Alan Balch/Pamela Schreckengost
California Thoroughbred Trainers executive director Alan Balch

"We'll work with Del Mar and see how their program is working, and then maybe see what we can institute. Mr. Chaney and I will get after that," Ferraro concluded.

Later during his executive director's report, Chaney noted that Santa Anita had experienced an uptick in recent equine fatalities, mentioning two catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries and one sudden death from May 9-14. However, he emphasized perspective in the cases, noting that "catastrophic injuries are exceedingly rare in California, and rarer each year.

"But because of that, the impact of each injury is more greatly felt and frankly reported," he added. "For example, at this meet at Santa Anita in 2019, which really jumpstarted this regulatory push, there were 37 fatalities. In 2020, that number was 17. In 2021, it was 13. And with a few weeks remaining in the meet this year, that number is eight."

Also during Thursday's meeting, commissioners granted Chaney the authority to enter the CHRB into a voluntary agreement with the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority. Some commissioners stated their desire to see the state's respected Kenneth L. Maddy Laboratory at the University of California, Davis continue to play an instrumental role in drug testing and equine welfare under the federal HISA program.

Summer stabling in Northern California also was addressed Thursday, with California Authority of Racing Fairs executive director Larry Swartzlander telling commissioners that approximately 650 horses can be stabled at Pleasanton and 450 horses at Sacramento. The customary Northern California training base for horses, Golden Gate Fields, will not be open for a period this summer while it undergoes repairs and upgrades.