Some Santa Anita Workers Blame Stronach Group For Horse Deaths
More than two dozen people who work at Santa Anita Park "revealed an array of factors that put horses' lives at risk" as dysfunction has enveloped the race track for the past six months, and many of those people "lay the blame on a push" by track owner The Stronach Group to maximize profits, according to Drape & Knoll of the N.Y. TIMES. The people said that the "push to boost revenue required a relentless racing schedule" despite "unusually rainy and cold weather in Southern California that might have made the track less safe." Of the 30 horse deaths this season at Santa Anita, 11 "occurred during training, when horses were presumably not going full speed, suggesting problems with the track's surface." Horse owners and trainers said that to "increase betting, track managers held more races with bigger fields, which put intense pressure on trainers to race horses that may not have had enough rest or been in the proper condition." The track also "tolerated trainers who had been cited for using performance-affecting drugs." The "drive to add more races" came from Stronach Group COO Tim Ritvo, and Stronach Group Chair & President Belinda Stronach acknowledged that Ritvo had been "brought on to increase Santa Anita's profits." But she said that "'more is better' is not a company philsophy." She also "rejected the idea that her executive team forced trainers to run unfit horses." Stronach said, "No one has said that you can't be here if you don't run" (NYTIMES.com, 6/26).