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After mysterious spike in racehorse deaths, Turf Paradise changes protocol

How is Turf Paradise dealing with the tragic issue, and are the changes working?

PHOENIX — The shocking news from Santa Anita Park in California is making waves all across the country this Spring. Vincent Francia and the folks over at Turf Paradise are watching the headlines, knowing no track is immune the puzzling mystery. 

"Everyone in the horse racing industry is concerned," Francia said. 

Santa Anita announced the 23rd racing related horse death since December 26th, which is just under two per week. The track is announcing new protocol to try and curb the problem, while acknowledging the cause is still a mystery.

"There are inherent dangers in the sport, but when fatalities start to spike, that's going to get the attention of any racetrack and last year ours spiked up," Francia said. 

According to the Arizona Department of Gaming, 27 horses died from racing-related injuries at Turf Paradise during the 2017-2018 season.   

The season lasts just over six months, and that number is a spike unlike anything Francia has seen before. The track took immediate measures to try and fix the mysterious problem. 

Francia says this season, there is new protocol which has never been used at Turf Paradise. Now, a track veterinarian checks out each racehorse at least four times prior to a race on race day. 

"If the vet sees something he doesn't like, the horse is scratched," Francia said.

Also, the track is sending samples of its dirt to a lab in Kentucky every two weeks. 

"We want to make sure the ratio from clay to sand is in balance, because when it's not, it could produce a racetrack that's too hard. 

The new measures do seem to be working slightly. With about a month to go in the season, Turf Paradise has seen 18 racing-related deaths, down form 27 the year before. 

"In all sincerity, our goal is to figure all of this out and to run a season with zero fatalities," Francia said. 

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