SAN DIEGO — Two horses died at the Del Mar Fairgrounds race track Thursday morning after colliding during a training session, according to officials with the Del Mar Throughbred Club.
The accident happened around 6:30 a.m., Del Mar Throughbred Club spokesman Dan Smith said.
The two horses, 3-year-old Carson Valley and 2-year-old Charge A Bunch, collided after Charge A Bunch unseated jockey Geovanni Franco, then turned sharply and ran in the wrong direction before colliding with Carson Valley, who was training alongside two other horses, and completing a workout for jockey Assael Espinoza, according to a statement from the race track.
Franco and the other two horses were uninjured in the collision, Smith
said. Espinoza complained of pain in his lower back and underwent a CAT scan at a local hospital. Brian Beach, Espinoza's agent, later confirmed on Twitter that the jockey avoided serious injury and suffered only a bruised lower back.
During Thursday's news conference, track officials said the horses suffered cervical fractures and died on the racetrack, adding that safety protocols were followed and this was a "rare, unfortunate accident" and no one is to blame.
Carson Valley was trained by Bob Baffert and Charge A Bunch was trained by Carla Gaines.
Officials say both horses will be sent to laboratory in San Bernardino for a necropsy.
"This was a very unfortunate accident and it is a shock to everyone in the barn," Baffert said in a statement. "We work every day to take the best care of our horses, but sometimes freak accidents occur that are beyond anyone's ability to control. This is one of those times and we’re deeply saddened for the horses and everyone involved."
The following statement below is from Del Mar Thoroughbred Club:
"We are saddened to confirm that two horses, Charge A Bunch and Carson Valley, suffered fatal injuries due to an accidental collision during training this morning. We are deeply sorry for the horses and their owners, trainers, riders and grooms."
The statement below is from PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo:
"These horses' lives were taken from them by the racing industry. PETA requests that Del Mar and all other California racetracks release records of horses who have gotten loose on the tracks and urges the California Horse Racing Board to launch a full investigation in order to eliminate the dangers of training. Saying that deaths are inevitable in racing is like saying a swim team can't compete without drowning. If racing can't be done without horses dying, it shouldn't be done at all."
PETA, whose motto reads, in part, that "animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way," say they oppose speciesism. The group also tweeted about the incident and called for an investigation saying "PETA requests that all #CA tracks release records of horses who have gotten loose on the tracks & urges the racing board to launch a full investigation!"
Track veterinarians and emergency personnel were on the scene and were able to respond immediately, according to track officials.
The race track began its 80th racing season Wednesday in the midst of
heavy criticism of the sport of horse racing from animal rights activists. A
total of 30 horses died during the Dec. 26-June 23 racing season at Santa Anita
Park in Arcadia, prompting calls for increased safety measures and an
indefinite closure of the track.