The safety of our athletes, equine and human, is our top priority. California horse racing is among the most regulated sports in the world and industry stakeholders—tracks, owners, trainers, riders, veterinarians, our regulators and others—are always seeking ways to enhance our safety and welfare standards.
Accreditation and Regulation
Thoroughbred racing is regulated by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB), which oversees all aspects of horse racing, licensing, and wagering. Established in 1933 and now part of the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency, the CHRB acts to ensure the integrity, viability, and safety of horse racing in the state. Board members, appointed by the governor of California, are drawn from leaders in business, public service, horse racing, and veterinary care to bring their expertise to bear on the racing industry.
We’re vigilant when it comes to preventing accidents and injuries long before the start of each day’s races.
Rules for Racing
The safety of our athletes is protected by race day rules that reduce the potential for injury:
California has the toughest rule in the country governing how jockeys may use their riding crop and the rule is strictly enforced. Riders cannot use the crop more than six times during a race, excluding showing or waiving the crop or tapping the horse on the shoulder. Riders cannot use the crop more than two times in succession (within the six-time limit) without giving the horse a chance to respond before using the crop again. The crop must be used in an underhanded position with the crop always at or below the shoulder level of the jockey. During training the crop can only be used for the safety of horse or rider.
To prevent unsound horses from being entered in claiming races (a race in which each starter is available to be “claimed” for a set purchase price), California voids claims for any horse placed on the Veterinarian’s List following a race.
CHRB rules prohibit pregnant mares from running after 120 days of gestation.
Veterinary Care and Emergency Services
We work hard to make training and racing as safe as possible, but state-of-the-art veterinary care is never far in the event of an accident. On-track veterinarians and modern equine ambulances are available to immediately respond to a horse in need, and on-site nuclear scintigraphy and other equipment stands ready to assess and diagnose injuries. An equine hospital is on site at Santa Anita Park and other equine hospitals are within a short drive from each of our racetracks.
The Stronach Group, the owners of Santa Anita and Golden Gate Park, in partnership with the Dolly Green Research Foundation, invested $500,000 in the purchase of a Longmile Positron Emission Tomography Scan Machine in May 2019. The machine allows for the imaging of a horse’s fetlock (ankle) joint while the horse is standing, which can help detect microscopic bone injuries, flagging pre-existing conditions that can develop into more serious injuries and preventing fractures. The machine became available for use in the Southern California Equine Foundation’s Equine Hospital at Santa Anita in the fall of 2019.
Paramedics and an ambulance are on site at each racetrack to assist with accidents and human medical emergencies.