Los Alamitos Race Course’s owner is threatening to shut down the Orange County race track after facing sanctions from the state over horse fatalities.
Nearly 30 horses have died in 2020 at Los Alamitos, which hosts several high-profile quarter-horse stakes races every year. The fatalities made fewer headlines compared to the nearly 50 horse deaths at Santa Anita Park in a 12-month stretch between 2018 and 2019, but the California Horse Racing Board has been paying attention.
At its Dec. 17 meeting, the board approved a six-month license for the track into 2021. Licenses are typically issued for an entire year. The board members said they would issue another six-month license in June if the track improved its safety record.
Track owner Dr. Ed Allred objected during the meeting as members deliberated.
“This condition will not work,” he said. “Forget it. I can’t do it.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several bills to protect race horses since Santa Anita garnered national attention in 2019. The legislation includes expanding the state Horse Racing Board’s authority to suspend licenses and creating stricter requirements for veterinary monitoring of race horses.
He signaled the need for stronger regulation when he told the New York Times that the sport’s “time is up unless they reform.”
The board picked up that mantle when it issued the six-month license to Los Alamitos.
“We have an obligation for the welfare and benefit of the horses,” said board vice chairman Oscar Gonzalez. “This is a very serious matter. We’re talking about the future of horse racing.”
Allred chimed in at the meeting, threatening to curb racing if the track received a half-year license.
“We cannot go on that way,” he said. “We would withdraw our application to race. I would stop racing.”
Allred said he has no issue with the board reviewing its safety record at any time. But he argued a six-month license, with no guarantee of being renewed, would be “devastating” for the track and create challenges for planning meets.
He said it would also be unfair to owners who have invested in racehorses from birth. Horses have a limited time window when they can remain competitive in racing.
The board initially split its vote evenly on the proposal.
But that would have left the track without a license altogether, so it took up the vote a second time. The proposal passed 5 to 1.
The track ran races this past weekend under the new license.
The board has indicated that stiffer regulations helped improve safety at Santa Anita Park, which recorded 16 fatalities in 2020. The most recent death occurred on Sunday.
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