‘Watershed Moment For California Horse Racing’: TOC Seeking Input From Members On Announced Reforms

by | 03.15.2019 | 3:18pm

Thoroughbred Owners of California has scheduled a 1 p.m. PT teleconference on Saturday for its members to provide input and ask questions about the medication and safety reforms for Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields announced on Thursday by Belinda Stronach, chairman of The Stronach Group that owns the two California racetracks, along with Gulfstream Park in Florida and Pimlico and Laurel in Maryland.

The following email was sent to TOC members on Thursday.

To All TOC Members:
We are sending this email to keep our membership apprised of the unfolding events at Santa Anita and the actions being taken by the TOC board and staff.

TOC President & CEO, Greg Avioli, and Racing Affairs Chairman Gary Fenton took part in a lengthy meeting Wednesday with Santa Anita principal owner Belinda Stronach. In the meeting we reviewed the circumstances of the 21 horse fatalities and discussed The Stronach Group's (TSG) plans for what they described as needed “radical medication and safety reforms.” TOC expressed our initial support for the idea that the time had come to seriously address the proposed reforms, and we discussed various alternatives to phase in their implementation. Following another fatality at their facility Thursday morning, TSG issued a press release announcing their intent to carry out these new reforms.

The TOC Board held an emergency meeting Thursday, at which a number of concerns were raised including potential welfare and safety risks to horses racing without Lasix for the first time. Concern was also expressed regarding the inconsistency with TSG implementing these house rules in California but not at their tracks in Maryland or Florida and the unfair economic advantage it could bring to these states to the detriment of California owners and breeders. We have shared our concerns with TSG.

This is a watershed moment for California horse racing. We believe it is imperative for all stakeholders, starting with the TOC and TSG, to work together and find common ground wherever possible. We continue to have conversations with TSG and CHRB on the details, timing and potential unforeseen consequences of the implementation of the announced reforms. We expect to continue these conversations at Santa Anita Friday. In the interim, TOC management and legal counsel are currently evaluating Thursday's developments and the announced changes.

We recognize these are complex issues and there are no easy answers. We would welcome the input of our members on this matter and plan to hold a TOC member teleconference this Saturday, March 16 at 1:00 p.m.

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