Arcadia, California: A 30th horse has died at Santa Anita Park since the racing season began on Dec. 26, prompting the track to ban the Hall of Famer who trained the animal, track officials said Saturday.
American Currency, a 4-year-old gelding, was euthanized after suffering an injury while exercising on the training track Saturday morning, said Mike Marten, a spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board.
The gelding was the fourth horse who died under the care of Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer,
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was ruled off the Santa Anita track after a fourth horse in his care died while racing or training.
American Currency on Saturday suffered a life-ending leg injury to his left-front fetlock (ankle) while running over the training track, according to Rick Arthur, chief equine veterinarian for the California Horse Racing Board. It was the first fatality this meeting on the training track, which sits between the turf course and infield area and is not used for racing. It was the 30th horse fatality since the meeting opened on Dec. 26.
“Individuals who do not embrace the new rules and safety measures that put horse and rider safety above all else will have no place at any Stronach Group racetrack,” the company that owns Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields, in Albany, Calif., said in a statement.
“We regret that Mr. Hollendorfer’s record in recent months at both Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields has become increasingly challenging and does not match the level of safety and accountability we demand. Effective immediately, Mr. Hollendorfer is no longer welcome to stable, race or train his horses at any of our facilities.”
In addition to the four horses at Santa Anita, Hollendorfer lost two during the fall-winter meet at Golden Gate Fields. River of Doubt, a 3-year-old filly, died on Nov. 11 and Defiantly, a 6-year-old gelding, was euthanized on Jan. 6 after breaking down.
Hollendorfer could not be reached for comment by The Times, but told the Daily Racing Form on Saturday, “I’m trying to work out a plan now. The only thing I have to say is every time anyone loses a horse the whole backstretch loses.
“… I’m training over 100 horses right now. Santa Anita didn’t want me to stay on the grounds. My opinion was that was a premature thing to do. I thought it was extreme. Now I have to step away for a while.”
Santa Anita’s meeting ends Sunday and its sister track, Golden Gate Fields, is currently not running.
American Currency, a 4-year-old gelding, had won three of 13 races lifetime. He was scheduled to run last Sunday in a $12,500 claiming race, among the lowest quality races run at Santa Anita. However, he was listed as a veterinarian scratch.
In his last race on May 17, a $25,000 claiming race, he finished last in a five-horse field, finishing 17 1/2 lengths behind the fourth-place horse. Hollendorfer was part-owner of the horse.
Hollendorfer had two horses entered on Saturday, the Nightingale in the seventh, and Dueling in the ninth. Both were scratched.
Hollendorfer, 73, maintains stables at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields and just sent horses to run in New York. Joe Harper, chief executive and president of Del Mar, said it was too early to make a decision about whether Hollendorfer would be allowed to race at the seaside track, which opens on July 17. Orlando Gutierrez, a spokesman for Los Alamitos, said his track, which picks up racing June 29, had not made a decision.
Mike Marten, a spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board, said the pre-review panel that evaluated horses for the last six days at Santa Anita would be used at Los Alamitos, although the people who comprise it might change.
Hollendorfer’s recent success has come with Shared Belief and Songbird, both Eclipse Award winners. He has won 7,617 races in 33,519 starts in a career that goes back to 1979. His horses have won almost $200 million in purses. He was inducted into the racing hall of fame in 2011.
The first horse of his to die this meeting was Psychedelicat, a 4-year-old gelding, when he was euthanized after breaking down in a $16,000 claiming race. His second horse to die was Battle of Midway on Feb. 23. It was the former Breeders’ Cup winner’s death that sparked a national firestorm. Kochees, a 9-year-old gelding, died after suffering an injury in a $10,000 claiming race.
Image: Animal-rights advocates protest the deaths of racehorses at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California, on March 3, 2019.