By Rory Carroll
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The Breeders’ Cup will be held as scheduled at Santa Anita Park in November despite the death of 30 horses at the track since December, the board overseeing the race said on Thursday.
The idea of moving the race to Louisville’s Churchill Downs had been floated recently but race officials said they were confident the owners of the Southern California track were taking the necessary steps to improve conditions.
“It is clear that meaningful and effective reforms and best practices have been implemented in recent months at Santa Anita,” said Craig Fravel, president and CEO of the Breeders’ Cup after the board’s unanimous vote to move ahead.
“We fully embrace those reforms and will devote our time and energy in the coming months to further advance those efforts.”
In March the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, banned drugs and whips in competitions after the death toll of horses rose to 21 — double that of the previous season.
American Currency, a four-year-old gelding, last week became the 30th horse to die at the track, leading the Stronach Group to ban the horse’s trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
American Currency was the fourth horse under Hollendorfer’s supervision to die this season.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Wednesday allowing state officials to suspend or shut down horse races with little notice in response to a furor over the deaths.
Animal rights activists said they were happy the race was not moved to Churchill Downs, which they said had “an even more shameful record of fatalities”.
“The Breeders’ Cup board made the right decision,” said Kathy Guillermo, senior vice president at PETA.
“Now, it should disallow trainers with multiple medication violations from all races.”
The Breeders’ Cup calls itself the “richest two days in sports”, with $30 million paid out in prize money and awards over the two days of racing.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)