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Another Horse Dies At Santa Anita Racetrack

   ARCADIA (CNS) - Another racehorse has been euthanized at Santa Anita
Park, the 26th horse death at Santa Anita since the track's racing season
opened on Dec. 26.
   Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding, was put down Sunday after suffering a
leg injury during a race the previous day, the track confirmed.
   He is the third horse to die at the Arcadia facility within the past
nine days, after several weeks without a fatality.
   Kochees was running in his 49th race, a $10,000 claiming race over 5
1/2 furlongs, when he was pulled up by jockey Mario Gutierrez while entering
the top of the stretch, according to the Los Angeles Times, which was first to
report the death.
   The newspaper reported that the horse was taken off the course in a
van and left overnight in his stall with a splint on his injured leg in the
hope of stabilizing his condition. Surgeons reportedly weighed an operation,
but discovered the horse had lost blood flow to the leg and the decision was
made to euthanize.
   Mike Willman, Santa Anita's director of publicity, confirmed the
details, telling City News Service that ``every effort was made to save the
animal.''
   A group of animal rights activists protested outside the park Sunday
morning, before news broke of the latest fatality. Later, People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals released the following statement from Senior Vice
President Kathy Guillermo:
   ``Santa Anita and all California tracks must suspend racing until the
ongoing investigation by the district attorney is complete and the new rules
have been strengthened. Decreasing the number of broken bones is not enough.
PETA and Social Compassion in Legislation are currently working with The
Stronach Group and the California Horse Racing Board to enact new regulations
and laws to stop all deaths. Nothing short of a zero-fatality rate is
acceptable.''
   Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey last month announced
the creation of a task force to investigate the deaths of the horses at the
track.
   In a letter to the California Horse Racing Board on April 2,
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein called for racing to be suspended at the track
``until the cause or causes of these deaths can be fully investigated.''
   On May 18, an unraced 3-year-old gelding named Commander Coil suffered
a fatal shoulder injury while galloping during training. His death was the
first since March 31.
   ``Equine shoulder injuries are rare, especially for a horse that is
galloping as opposed to breezing or racing,'' according to a statement from The
Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita. ``A comprehensive evaluation will be
completed to understand what might have caused this uncommon injury.''
   On Sunday May 19, Spectacular Music, a 3-year-old gelding, sustained a
pelvic injury while running his first career race and was put down.
   ``The Stronach Group remains committed to operating Santa Anita Park
with stringent protocols that prioritize the health and safety of horses and
riders first and foremost,'' the statement said.
   Santa Anita was closed to racing for most of March while authorities
studied the racing surface for possible causes contributing to the deaths. Some
observers have speculated that this year's unusual level of rain is playing a
role in the fatalities. Santa Anita's owners brought in national experts to
conduct days of testing on the track's soil, but no problems were found.
   Races resumed after the state horse racing board approved a series of
safety measures, including limits on certain types of medications administered
to horses.
   In early April, Santa Anita officials announced a series of new
measures to help bolster the safety of horses at the track, including
restrictions on certain medications, requiring trainers to get permission in
advance before putting a horse through a workout and investing in diagnostic
equipment to aid in the early detection of pre-existing conditions.

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