Home to one of the nation’s largest horse racing training facilities, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California has just reached a milestone as the sport works to improve safety across the board. The Thoroughbred racetrack ended its six-month winter/spring season as the safest track in North America of a similar size and scale of operation.
From December 26, 2021 to closing day June 19, 2022, a total of three people died in Santa Anita out of more than 4,800 starters, according to the California Board of Horse Racing and racetrack officials. In addition, there were no deaths due to musculoskeletal racing on the main dirt track of the facility during this period.
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These numbers are in stark contrast to 2019, when the park came under scrutiny after a total of 42 horses died at the facility over a 12-month period.
Since 2019, Santa Anita and later CHRB officials have made several reforms that will largely be reflected in a bipartisan bill known as the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA) that includes race track safety measures that will go into effect. July 1. 2022 Act creates a non-government anti-doping and racecourse safety body to ensure uniformity of racing rules across all thoroughbred tracks in the US.
For the first time, the entire racing community, which does not have an established national governing body, will be run under the same rules and standards regardless of the event. It’s a major shift in the sport that aims to improve safety and bolster fairness amid several high-profile doping issues in recent years.
Medication regulations, drug testing policies and anti-doping rules are additional key aspects of the Horse Racing Fairness and Safety Act, which are due to come into effect on January 1, 2023.
Congressman from Kentucky Andy Barr spoke with NBC Sports about HISA ahead of the 2022 Kentucky Derby and called it “the most consistent and transformative reform of the thoroughbred racing industry since the Interstate Racing Act of 1978,” referring to the legislation that helped standardize off-track rates in horse racing.
“In order to attract a new generation of fans, we need to ensure safety and fairness,” Barr said. “Whether it be the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, California, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas… The whole country will be running under the same set of rules and that will elevate the entire industry.”