Santa Anita suspends racing after rash of horse deaths

CBS SPORTS - Santa Anita has suspended races indefinitely, as it tries to figure out why 21 horses have died on its dirt surface in the past 10 weeks. The track, which is slated to host the Breeders' Cup a record 10th time in the fall, suffered yet another loss on Tuesday, when a 4-year-old filly was euthanized after sustaining an injury.

"In whole, we feel confident in the track and we're just being very proactive," Tim Ritvo, the COO of the course's owner The Stronach Group, said via CBS News. "We want to do all the testing that needs to be done. When we believe we're in good shape, we'll start to train over it again."

"Obviously, one horse is too many," Ritvo added. "The recent rash is just horrible. We need to definitely take a step back and evaluate everything."

Santa Anita had 11.5 inches of rain in February, not to mention abnormally low temperatures, but Ritvo claims that experts have said that that isn't what's caused the wave of deaths.

"We think that (rain) could definitely contribute even though our experts are telling us not," Ritvo said, per CBS News. "The tracks out here are built not for weather like that."

Races were to resume March 14, and the San Felipe for young Derby contenders and the Santa Anita handicap for older horses were to be run this weekend. The two are major races, but Ritvo was unsure if they would be rescheduled. While he claimed he had hope as they're "huge" races, he added that "The first and most important thing is the health and welfare of the horses and jockeys."

20 deaths occurred at Santa Anita in 2017, and a soil and safety expert from Kentucky said that the track was "100 percent ready" for racing to resume after it closed for two days last week, per CBS News. Two horses have died since then.