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Trainer is angry about Santa Anita's dirt track

Barry Abrams says eight of his horses have been injured on the track, including two that were euthanized. Others, however, don't blame the track for what has happened to Abrams' horses.

November 06, 2011|Eric Sondheimer
  • Trainer Barry Abrams with former Las Virgenes Stakes winner Golden Doc A.
Trainer Barry Abrams with former Las Virgenes Stakes winner Golden Doc… (Benoit Photo )

Santa Anita's 24-day autumn meeting ended Sunday with at least one trainer complaining bitterly about the Arcadia track's new dirt surface.

"I'm very angry," trainer Barry Abrams said Saturday. "I think it's the worst it's ever been. It's very dangerous. I'm not venting. This is the truth."

Abrams said he has had eight horses injured, including two that were euthanized after suffering injuries during morning galloping sessions. He said it has been taking three to four days to get X-rays for horses, a delay he blamed on "so many horses having problems."

Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, said the statistics are good regarding the safety of the track. There were two horses euthanized in afternoon racing. Before the weekend, five horses had been euthanized from injuries in morning activities, according to a track official.

"I empathize with him," Arthur said. "He's had a bad stretch. It's a dirt track, and problems come with a dirt track."

Madeline Auerbach, who owns horses with Abrams and is on the board of directors of Thoroughbred Owners of California, said she doesn't blame the track for her stable's injuries.

"Unfortunately, we've had a real rough patch," Auerbach said. "Sometimes people get frustrated and look for any explanation why things have gone south. We're having a difficult time, but I don't think it's the track's fault."

It has been a challenging couple of months for Abrams, who underwent surgery for throat cancer during the summer and lost one of his stable's best horses, 3-year-old Burns, when he was euthanized after fracturing sesamoid bones in his right foreleg during the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 4 on the turf.

California went through a period where its racetracks were ordered by the CHRB to replace dirt tracks in favor of synthetic tracks in an effort to improve safety. But complaints about the synthetic surfaces involving maintenance and injury issues resulted in Santa Anita receiving approval to return to a dirt surface in 2010.

Trainers and owners were consulted when sand was added and clay removed from the dirt surface during a refurbishing project in the summer.

"We probably have the most analyzed track in the world," Santa Anita President George Haines said.

Karen Headley, who assists her father, veteran trainer Bruce Headley, said one of their horses was euthanized in a racing accident last month but didn't blame the track.

"It was a classic case of a bad step," she said. "We've been really happy with the dirt."

Said Auerbach: "We've had a perfect storm of injuries, and I wish I could snap my fingers and make it better. If I felt this track was causing the death of my horses, I would say, 'Don't run here.' "

Santa Anita is scheduled to play host to racing's world championships, the Breeders' Cup, on Nov. 2-3, 2012.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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