Advocates want horse deaths investigated at Del Mar racetrack - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Advocates want horse deaths investigated at Del Mar racetrack

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SAN DIEGO (CNS/ CBS 8) - There's was a call for action at the Del Mar racetrack Thursday by animal rights advocates and at least one former state assemblywoman since 17 horses have died and the number increased from 7 during the first week of training and competition.

The start of the summer racing season at the Del Mar Racetrack will be pushed back one week, beginning next year, in an effort to reduce the number of horse fatalities, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club announced Thursday.

The decision comes in the wake of 16 deaths of horses during this year's meet, a total that prompted several animal rights advocates to attend a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board at the track.

Ten of the horses died after injuries suffered in morning workouts, with the remaining six during racing, according to the DMTC.

Former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, community activist Martha Sullivan and members of animal rights groups urged the California Horse Racing Board to investigate the recent deaths. 

Animal rights advocates at Thursday's meeting said more needs to be done after horses have died.

"Horses are dying there. They're breaking their legs, dying of heart attacks and nobody's doing anything about it," Ellen Ericksen, said.

California Horse Race Board Executive Director, Rick Baedeker says trainers and owners are drawn to horse racing for the beauty and care of the animal and that it's more than just a gambling industry. 

"I want to let you know that investigations are currently being conducted on all horses that are lost at this meet. Those same investigations are conducted for all horses that are lost within our enclosures in the state of California," Baedeker said.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President, Joe Harper, says they're doing everything they can to make the races safe for their horses.

"We have a number of vets that we hire to go around and look at every horse that's in every race," Harper said.

Former Assemblywoman Lori Saldana said in a statement:

The board needs to determine why we're seeing an increase in deaths and injuries before increasing gambling in California to subsidize an activity that is decreasing in popularity.

Community activists will also voice their opposition to Assembly Bill 2863, which would, in part, allocate funds to subsidize horse racing. 

Last week, the DMTC and The Jockey Club announced that they will provide additional funding to the Ken Maddy Laboratory at UC Davis to enhance the horse racing agency's medication testing program. The amount wasn't specified.

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