A famed California track has suspended horse racing indefinitely after the 21st death of a horse in 10 weeks. A 4-year-old filly named Lets Light the Way had to be euthanized at Arcadia's Santa Anita Park on Tuesday after injuring her front right leg in training. Another eight horses have been put down as a result of training injuries since Dec. 26, while seven have died on the dirt track and five on the turf track, reports the Los Angeles Times. The 21 deaths are nearly double last year's total. At least two Saturday races, including a prep race for 3-year-old horses looking to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, will be postponed as experts study track surfaces. Per the Times, "races have to be spaced properly leading up to the Kentucky Derby, so delay of more than one week would seriously compromise a horse's training."
"The safety, health, and welfare of the horses and jockeys is our top priority," says Tim Ritvo, COO of the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita. But, he adds "we're just being very proactive" and "we are confident further testing will confirm the soundness of the track." An expert who last week reviewed soil samples and radar data found the facility was "100% ready" for racing, per the Times. Still, others think heavy rainfall has taken a toll, per CNN. PETA has also demanded an investigation into the possible use of drugs to mask horse injuries. Rick Baedeker of the California Horse Racing Board, however, says the deaths could be "an anomaly." "We've had situations in the past where there were extraordinary flurries and then nothing for a long time," he says, noting horse deaths have decreased by 60% in recent years. (This horse was just saved ... from a tree.)