By Marissa Perlman

DAVIS (CBS13) – The future of horse racing in California is in the spotlight as the California State Fair kicks off this weekend.

Meanwhile, experts with UC Davis are unraveling what caused 30 thoroughbreds to die last year at Santa Anita Park.

Sue Stover, a veterinarian and researcher at UC Davis, is trying to find out what happened in Santa Anita last year.

“I think it’s good that the industry has a wake-up call, and I firmly believe that racehorse injuries are preventable,” she said.

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She studies the bones of the horses that died trying to find out what went wrong. She can’t point to what exactly happened to these horses, saying it’s all still under investigation.

“What we’ve learned from previous injuries, and at Santa Anita, are definitely helping us prevent injuries at all race tracks, including the State Fair,” she said.

The annual horse race around the one-mile oval track is on at the state fairgrounds.

Larry Swartzlander, Executive Director of the California Authority of Racing Fairs, says the deaths at Santa Anita put the entire industry under a microscope.

“These horses are bred to race, but you have to make the environment as safe as you can,” he said.

But since the tragedy, changes have already been made. One is horses can no longer receive medication on race day so they don’t become desensitized to pain before a big race.

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Stover says with her research, there could be a silver lining through this tragedy. It could lead to safer requirements for horses across the country.

“Whether it’s the state fair or Santa Anita, or Churchhill Downs, we are here working for their safety,” she said.

Again, there’s no official cause for the Santa Anita deaths yet.

Leaders say they’re learning from the Santa Anita problem, so will you notice changes on the track?

We are told the track at Santa Anita needed to be replaced.

Swartzlander says owners will have to adhere to high standards to keep the horses safe.

Marissa Perlman


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