If animal rights activists succeed in their goal to shut down Santa Anita Park in the wake of a rash of equine fatalities, what will happen to the backstretch workers who live there? That's the question dozens of horsemen want the public to begin thinking about, according to a press conference held at Clocker's Corner on Thursday.
Workers showed up in droves with signs in English and in Spanish, urging the public to think about the estimated 77,000 grooms, hot walkers, exercise riders, trainers, assistants, and others whose careers are dependent on the Thoroughbred racing industry in California. Hundreds of them live on the Santa Anita property as well, and some say they will become homeless and jobless if the track were to close suddenly. Workers say they've raised children on the backstretch, and earned the money to put kids through college thanks to their employment there.
They also say they want the public to know they care about the horses who keep them working — and think about them as though they too, are family.
“They focus on the fatalities. It's the first thing they talk about,” trainer Hector Palma told the Los Angeles Times. “They never talk about the people who take care of them and love them. … There's no one who suffers more than us when a horse is injured. We take care of these horses better than some take care of a child.”
The event was attended by local television stations, both English and Spanish-speaking.
In the wake of the press conference, The Stronach Group released the following statement:
“Backstretch workers comprise the backbone of the racing industry and have been a willing partner in implementing the reforms we have proposed at Santa Anita Park— and the California Horse Racing Board implemented — during the course of this meeting. Support from these backstretch workers is a testament to the commitment from within the industry to modernize our sport.
“We look forward to working with the hundreds of backstretch workers at Santa Anita Park as we continue to move the industry forward and educate Californians on how impactful horse racing is to the state.”
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