CYPRESS (CNS) - The California Horse Racing Board will meet by teleconference today to consider if it will grant Los Alamitos Race Course a license to conduct quarter horse racing in the 2020-21 season, following a cluster of equine deaths that prompted the board to briefly place the track on probation earlier this year.
Los Alamitos is holding nighttime quarter horse races through Dec. 20, without fans due to the coronavirus. The new license would allow the track to hold quarter horse races commencing on Dec. 23 this year through Dec. 21, 2021.
The license application was on last month's agenda meeting, but it was tabled so the track could present a plan to reduce the number of horses receiving corticosteroid intra-articular joint injections.
CHRB officials suspect those injections have contributed to the high number of equine fatalities this year at the Cypress track, where at least 29 horses have died from racing or training injuries.
According to the industry website Bloodhorse, CHRB Executive Director Scott Chaney told commissioners last month that evaluations of fatalities at Los Alamitos showed horses there were injected an average of three times over their lifetimes. That was far more than the 0.6 average for the racehorse fatalities at Del Mar, Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields.
Los Alamitos was placed on probation July 10. At that time at least 20 horses had died at the track in 2020 after suffering racing or training injuries, and another 10 had succumbed to gastrointestinal and other types of illnesses.
On July 20, the CHRB unanimously signed off on a plan to allow Los Alamitos to continue holding races after track officials agreed to add several layers of oversight.
The additional protocols included adding another veterinarian to be a “roving observer of horses in training, while entering, exiting or on the track,'' as well as a “security steward'' who oversees veterinary and barn practices, and an “entry review panel'' of experts who have the authority to scratch horses from races.
Since the probation was lifted, at least 10 more horses have died, seven from racing injuries and three from causes listed by the CHRB as “other.''
According to CHRB data, Los Alamitos saw 42 horses die during the 2018-19 season, with 33 of the deaths caused by racing or training activities. The track had 41 horses die during the 2017-18 season, 56 deaths in 2016-17, 63 in 2015-16, and 57 in 2014-15.
Los Alamitos officials did not respond to a request for comment about their application, but at the board's July meeting, owner Ed Allred said he was embarrassed by the deaths.
“I can assure you we're all kind of humiliated by this whole thing,'' Allred told the board. “We're going to do all that we can, everything we possibly can, to do things properly in the future. Some of our trainers are upset, but they will adjust to it.''
Dr. Rebecca Fitzgerald, the track's veterinarian on staff, said in July that the plan had already shown results.
“I have personally seen an improvement based on the new system that we're implementing, more so than I expected to see,'' Fitzgerald told the commissioners.
Los Alamitos also conducts daytime thoroughbred racing. Licenses for thoroughbred meets are typically considered two months before each meet is scheduled to start.
Also at Thursday's meeting, the CHRB will consider Santa Anita Park's application to conduct a meet from Dec. 23, 2020 through June 22, 2021.
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