Responses to CHRB Fatality Report

POSTED ON  |  12-03-2020

Rick Arthur
One day after the bombshell announcement that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York had filed indictments against 27 Thoroughbred veterinarians and trainers for an array of drug offenses, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) released its long-awaited report on the 23 equine catastrophic injuries that marred Santa Anita during the first few months of its 2018-2019 winter-spring meet.

The resulting report provides not only an extremely detailed dive into the multi-factorial nature of the causes behind these catastrophic injuries, but a lengthy series of recommendations in areas concerning track surface maintenance, track management, training practices, private and regulatory veterinary practices, horse safety and welfare, along with the CHRB itself.

It needs to be noted that many of these recommendations have already been instituted or are in the process of being.

Among the findings of the report:
  • The investigation uncovered no use of illegal medications or medical procedures, and no evidence of an animal welfare violation.
  • Twenty-one of the 22 horses which suffered catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries had pre-existing pathology at the site of the breakdown.
  • The vast majority of catastrophically injured horses had proximal sesamoid bone fractures.
  • Eleven horses had received intra-articular cortico-steroid injections, five within 60 days of fatal injury, and two within 14 days of injury.
  • The majority of horses which suffered catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries were instituted a high-intensity exercise regime which decreased a month before the fatal injury.
  • Nearly 40% of the fatalities occurred on surfaces “affected” by wet weather. Furthermore, horses may have been “compromised” by repeated training and racing on off-tracks-surface conditions that can contribute to repetitive stress injuries.
  • In terms of high-intensity workouts, the horse population at Santa Anita last winter had exercise profiles that put them at “higher risk for injury.”
  • Many of the horsemen involved “did not display good working knowledge of anatomy or grasp the significance of pre-existing lesions.” Furthermore, the horsemen involved were largely poor record-keepers.
  • Seven complaints will be filed alleging violations for failing to turn in daily reports, and three complaints will be filed alleging violations of a rule concerning trainer duties and/or training without a proper license.
The TDN has compiled a variety of responses to this report. Some of these answers came from a CHRB media-conference call Tuesday.

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