Another horse fatality at Santa Anita; 24 thoroughbreds have died since Dec. 26

Abel Resende

Santa Anita’s unprecedented run of six weeks without an equine fatality ended Friday morning when Commander Coil broke down during training with a shoulder injury and was subsequently euthanized.

Abel Resende

The track’s streak had reached about 7,000 timed workouts and race starts when Commander Coil suffered the fatal injury. The last death was March 31 when Arms Runner went down while on the dirt crossover on the downhill turf course. The course has subsequently been closed to sprint racing

Advertisement Commander Coil, a 3-year-old gelding, was the 24th death since Dec. 26. The horse was an unraced Colorado-bred trained by Marcelo Polanco and owned by Jose Romero

While Commander Coil’s catastrophic injury was mostly unnoticed in the quiet of a routine training session, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita’s sister track, had a very public death when Congrats Gal, running in the Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, collapsed just past the finish line after being eased through the final sixteenth of a mile

Her death will not likely be considered a catastrophic injury in that the horse did not break down and was not euthanized. No cause of death was immediately announced, but generally when a horse dies in that manner the cause is often a heart attack

A necropsy will be performed on both the Santa Anita and Pimlico fatalities

Bob Baffert knows why Improbable is Preakness Stakes favorite, and why not By John Cherwa May 17, 2019 | 1:55 PM “Congrats Gal suffered sudden death after the eight race [Friday],” the Maryland Jockey Club and the Stronach Group said in a statement. “The incident occurred after the wire. Commission veterinarians attended to the horse immediately. Our thoughts go out to all of the owners, trainers and connections of Congrats Gal.”

Congrats Gal was making her sixth start and had won her last two races

Horse safety has become one of the biggest issues in the industry after the spate of deaths in training or racing at Santa Anita between Dec. 26 and March 31. The fact that Santa Anita went so log without a fatality is almost as big of a statistical anomaly as the original spate of deaths

It has not been determined what caused the fatalities at Santa Anita, although most point to a racing surface that had been inundated by rain and the constant sealing and unsealing of the track

The centerpiece of Friday’s racing at Pimlico was the Grade 2 $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, also for 3-year-old fillies

In 2016, two horses died on the Preakness Stakes day undercard. Homeboykris, a 9-year-old gelding, died of a heart attack on the way back to the barns, and Pramedya, a 4-year-old filly, fractured a left front cannon bone and was euthanized

After the series of deaths at Santa Anita, Belinda Stronach, chief executive of the Stronach Group, instituted a series of safety reforms at the company’s two California tracks — Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields — that included a reduction in race-day medication and more extensive veterinarian oversight, among other initiatives

At the time, she said she wanted to implement the reforms at all the company’s tracks, to include Laurel and Pimlico in Maryland and Gulfstream in Florida, but negotiations with the different owner, trainer and jockey groups in other jurisdictions are ongoing and new measures are not in place

Santa Anita now has some of the strictest safety protocols in the nation. It’s Stronach’s wish to get those rules and regulations standard throughout all tracks in the U.S., even at tracks that the Stronach Group doesn’t control