30th Racehorse Dies at Santa Anita on Last Weekend Before Meeting Ends

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJune 22, 2019

ARCADIA, CA - JUNE 11: Starting gates are seen at Santa Anita Park race horse track on June 11, 2019 in Arcadia, California. A second race horse in two days has died at the track, bringing the total horse fatalities to 29 since the racing season began in December. More than 60 horses have reportedly perished at the track since the start of 2018. The California Horse Racing Board asked the park to shut down for the rest of the season but Santa Anita officials say they will disregard the request.(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images

Tragedy has struck Santa Anita Park once again as 30 horses have now died since December 26 after four-year-old American Currency suffered a life-ending leg injury Saturday, per John Cherwa of the Los Angeles Times.

Four of the 30 horses (including American Currency) have died under the care of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, per Cherwa.

Steve Andersen of Daily Racing Form reported that the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, ordered Hollendorfer to vacate his 46 stalls within 72 hours.

Whitney Harding of WHAS11 relayed the Stronach Group's statement:

Whitney Harding @WHAS11Whitney

It is official. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is "no longer welcome to stable, race or train his horses" at Santa Anita or any Stronach Group facility. Here is the group's official statement. @WHAS11 https://t.co/CjgI5w1sXm

Hollendorfer spoke with Anderson on the telephone following the decision:

"I'm trying to work out a plan now. The only thing I have to say is every time anyone loses a horse, the whole backstretch loses. That's the way everyone feels. I've been doing this for almost 40 years, and I've started more than 33,500 horses that have been under my care in my career. I haven't, in my opinion, had that many problems. I've never been suspended or anything like that. I have a lot of employees that I want to take care of and who have families that depend me. I'm training over 100 horses right now. Santa Anita didn't want me stay on the grounds. My opinion was that was a premature thing to do. I thought it was extreme. Now I have to step away for a while."

As Anderson referenced, the Santa Anita tragedies have sparked reaction from state and national politicians:

"The fatalities have led to widespread pressure by congressional and Senate representatives from California as well as Gov. Gavin Newsom for greater oversight into the care of horses. The fatalities have led track and California Horse Racing Board officials to implement several pre-race examinations of horses entered to race or scheduled to have workouts. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has called for a cessation of racing on three occasions since early April for full inspections of training and racetrack conditions."

Jeff Byrnes of Horse Racing Nation cited specific accusations against Hollendorfer and called for a lifetime ban if they were true:

Jeffrey Byrnes @jeffbyrnes96

If these reports about Jerry Hollendorfer about the medication violations and him sending horses to race when they shouldn't are true, he must be banned, for life. I don't care who you are, these are unacceptable. Period.

Nick Watt of CNN.com also did a deep dive into the Santa Anita horse deaths and quoted racehorse owner and professional gambler Scott Herbertson's take.

"You got guys pushing these horses beyond their limits and causing these catastrophic breakdowns," Herbertson said.

Watt also cited the lack of national standards, excessive horse medicating and track sealing, which makes the surface harder.