In California, animal rights activists are reportedly urging Santa Anita Park to cease live horseracing after Sunday saw a nine-year-old gelding named ‘Kochees’ become the 26th thoroughbred since December to die whilst training or competing at the historic track.

Sportsbetting selection:

According to a Monday report from local television broadcaster KNBC-TV, the historic venue located in the northern Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia hosted its first event on Christmas Day of 1934 but is now coming to terms with the fact that horseracing has since lost its position as California’s only legal gambling option.

Declining attendances:

Now owned by The Stronach Group, the track was built after California legalized parimutuel wagering in the midst of the Great Depression and it managed to attract a record 61,000 spectators for the 1958 edition of its showpiece Santa Anita Derby. But, the proceeding decades have reportedly seen this popularity wane with the same event some 56 years later attracting only around 35,000 aficionados, which came despite a corresponding 58% rise in the size of the local population.

Activist anger:

KNBC-TV reported that a group of animal rights protesters gathered outside the gates of the Los Angeles County facility on Monday to claim that horseracing is ‘inhumane’ and ‘speciest’ and subsequently also called on local legislators to initiate a local ballot measure against the sport.

One of those at the protest, Heather Wilson, reportedly told KNBC-TV that animals should not be used for ‘entertainment’ or sportsbetting and pointed to the fact that the similarly-controversial sport of racing greyhounds is already banned in some 40 states. She also purportedly pointed to last year’s passage of a ballot measure that will prohibit this pastime in Florida from the end of next year as an example of where California should be headed.

Racing reforms:

However, a spokesperson for The Stronach Group, Stefan Friedman, reportedly told KNBC-TV that his firm has sought to counter such opposition by pushing for reforms including greater veterinary oversight, a partial ban on the use of whips and tighter controls on equine medications such as Lasix. He purportedly declared that the operator has even established a ‘cooperative relationship’ with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organization.

Friedman reportedly told the broadcaster…

“We think horseracing is at a precipice. We need to make some wholesale changes in this industry. We at The Stronach Group are committed to getting this right.”