ARCADIA, Calif. -- Santa Anita plans to resume racing on March 29, pending approval of new safety and medication rules by the California Horse Racing Board.
Racing has been suspended at the track since March 5 after an unusually large number of fatal injuries to horses. There have been 22 horse deaths at Santa Anita in a two-plus-month span, prompting tests on its main dirt track and new rules limiting the use of medication.
The track, along with Golden Gate Fields in Northern California, and the Thoroughbred Owners of California reached agreement late Saturday to enact the most stringent medication rules in North America.
All horses born in or after 2018 will race at Santa Anita and Golden Gate with no race-day medication, including the anti-bleeding medication Lasix. That means all 2-year-old horses starting in 2020 and after will race medication-free.
All horses born before 2018 will race at the two tracks owned by The Stronach Group under the same guidelines, but Lasix will still be permitted only at 50 percent of current levels.
Dionne Benson, executive director of the Racing Medication & Testing Consortium, says extra time to adjust is necessary since the Lasix change will require many trainers to manage their horses without the medication for the first time.
Nearly every country outside the U.S. bans the use of Lasix on race days. Only 3.6 percent of the nearly 300,000 starts last year in the U.S. were made without Lasix, according to The Jockey Club.
CHRB chairman Chuck Winner says he will move the previously scheduled March 21 board meeting to March 28 in order for the full board to consider and vote on items that need its approval. The later date complies with the legally required 10-day public notice for meetings.
Santa Anita, Golden Gate and the TOC have agreed on the following:
transparency on all veterinary records;
strict limits on the use of any pain or anti-inflammatory medication and treatment, including legal therapeutic anti-inflammatory drugs, joint injections, shockwave therapy and anabolic steroids;
trainers must apply for permission to have their horses participate in timed workouts at least 48 hours in advance;
no therapeutic medications or treatments will be allowed without a qualified veterinary diagnosis from a state-licensed vet;
strict out-of-competition testing;
increasing the time required for horses to be on-site before a race;
investment by TSG in diagnostic equipment to help in the early detection of pre-existing conditions in horses.
"TSG is committed to the principles of safe horse racing for both equine and human athletes and to making California racing the best in the world,'' said Belinda Stronach, TSG chairwoman and president. "It is my hope the other tracks in California will follow suit.''
TSG negotiated with TOC and the California Thoroughbred Trainers to reach the agreement.
"I am confident we all share the same goal of making California racing safer and doing everything we can to provide additional safety and protection for our horses,'' said Greg Avioli, TOC president and CEO.
The new rules could result in trainers and owners moving their horses to other states with less restrictive medication rules.
The Los Angeles District Attorney's Office said Friday it would meet with the CHRB to investigate what caused the horses' deaths.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has also urged an investigation into trainers and vets.