California governor authorizes suspension of horse racing at Santa Anita Park after 30 horse deaths

Less than a month after owners of Santa Anita Park, a Thoroughbred race track in Arcadia, California, kept the facility open despite more than two dozen horse deaths at the site in six months, the state's governor has authorized a suspension of operations at the track.

That's according to the Associated Press, which reported Wednesday that Gov. Gavin Newsome has signed Senate Bill 469, legislation authored by Democratic state senator Bill Dodd and meant to give the California Horse Racing Board immediate authority to suspend track licenses "to protect the health and safety of horses and riders." Per the AP, the bill is aimed particularly at Santa Anita Park, which just closed its racing season on Sunday and has faced protesters for months.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the bill would also give the board authority to cancel a specific horse race "if conditions at the track could harm jockeys or horses." State law, per the Chronicle, did not previously allow such a course of action.

California Horse Racing Board spokesman Mike Martin told the AP that the board chairman will decide if and when to summon an emergency meeting, at which Santa Anita Park's license could officially be suspended.

Santa Anita Park, which is owned by The Stronach Group, has had 30 different horses die at the venue since December 2018. CBS News previously reported on the facility closing for March renovations, indicating that the death toll had risen to 23 only three days after the track was reopened in April.

"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 when the track was initially closed, 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."

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