3 horses die at Bay Area’s Golden Gate Fields in 2 days

Three horses died at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley across two days over the Memorial Day weekend, the California Horse Racing Board said.

On Sunday, My Panache died after rearing up while walking to the stable area, falling over and hitting her head, said Mike Marten, a spokesperson for the board. Desert Fog’s death on Monday near the starting gate is being categorized as “sudden death,” he added.

“There’s a worldwide phenomenon with horses dying suddenly for no clear reason,” Marten said. “There’s an incredible effort underway trying to understand these deaths. It’s usually believed to be a heart attack, but they don’t know for sure.”

Hong Kong Cowboy was euthanized on Monday after a race injury. “When the jockey dismounted, the horse pulled away and ran some distance on the injured leg,” Marten said.

All three incidents are under investigation, and Marten said the definitive causes of death won’t be released until post-mortem examinations are complete.

Protesters hold tombstones with the names of horses killed at Golden Gate Fields in 2022.

Direct Action Everywhere Network

The mortalities prompted outrage from animal activist groups that closely follow equine deaths at California tracks. Members of the Direct Action Everywhere network protested at the tracks Wednesday, holding tombstones decorated with the names of the eight horses that have died at Golden Gate Fields in 2022 so far.

Thirty-five horses died at Golden Gate Fields in the 2018-2019 racing season, 26 in 2019-2020 and 25 in 2020-2021. In the 2021-2022 season, there have been 19 deaths so far; eight of those have been in 2022.

Horse racing deaths are an issue at tracks across the country and in California. In 2019, the deaths of 23 horses over three months at Santa Anita Park in Southern California prompted public outcry and reforms.

Fatalities at California tracks are down more than 50% in the last 2.5 years, and Marten said “that’s because of the collaborative effort of the racing board passing rules and policies with the full cooperation of race tracks, trainers, jockeys and veterinarians.”

Govt. Gavin Newsom signed a bill in 2019 to give the horse racing board the authority to suspend licenses and halt a race meet to protect the health and safety of horses and riders.

A small portion of the decrease in fatalities is the result of a reduced number of races due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Marten said the number of starts was down 8% over the past two racing years.

A spokesperson for Golden Gate Fields did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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