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BC-RAC--Santa Anita,1st Ld-Writethru

May 27, 2019

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — The owner of Santa Anita is investigating whether new rules were followed before the 26th horse death at the Southern California racetrack.

Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding, was euthanized Sunday after injuring his left front leg in a race a day earlier. It was the third horse death in nine days and the 26th overall since the season began Dec. 26.

Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for The Stronach Group, told The Associated Press on Monday that the track’s owner is looking into whether protocols were followed leading up to the gelding being euthanized.

“If those rules were not followed, consequences will be swift,” he said. “I’m not going to get into specifics of that incident, but anybody who thinks they can sort of skirt the rules and perhaps there was an old way of doing things, it’s not going to fly anymore.”

Among the rules put in place since March, a trainer’s veterinarian must sign off on a horse’s fitness before the track’s veterinarian also takes a look at the animal ahead of it training or racing.

Trained by Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Kochees was pulled up by jockey Mario Gutierrez entering the top of the stretch in the 5 ½-furlong race. The gelding was vanned off the track and had a splint applied to his leg.

The injury appeared to be correctable through surgery. However when doctors realized the horse had lost blood flow to the leg, he was euthanized.

Animal rights activists protested outside the track Monday, toting signs urging the end of racing in California.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has urged racing be suspended until an investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has been completed.

“We’re open because the track is safe according to every single person we have talked to,” Friedman said. “With that track safety, we’re confident in running the horses here.”

Friedman described the seven-week stretch without any incidents before the three deaths in nine days “as pretty much an unprecedented run of safety as far as catastrophic injuries go.”

“We believe that’s in part because the reforms are starting to take hold and work,” he said.

Before the second race, jockey Drayden Van Dyke was dumped by his mount Crystal Lake as the field was making its way to the starting gate. The 3-year-old filly took off running up the track and an outrider failed to catch her. She continued running toward the stable area. Van Dyke wasn’t hurt.

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