Is the surface part of why so many horses have died at Santa Anita?

According to an article by Joe Drape and Corina Knoll in the New York Times, even after Santa Anita Park reopened for racing for the first time in 3 weeks after the mystifying deaths of nearly two dozen horses, regulators saw video evidence of performance-enhancing drugs, aka a milkshake.

In 2010, Santa Anita became one of several prominent tracks to abandon synthetic racetracks made of sand, rubber and silica after a short-lived experiment. The fatality rates had been far lower, but maintaining the tracks was vexing and expensive.

Many didn’t like them. Trainers complained the surface was causing an uptick in soft-tissue injuries. Some bettors found the newfangled racetracks difficult to make winning bets on. Owners and breeders said the tracks favored turf horses.

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After Santa Anita returned to its traditional mix of sand and dirt, catastrophic injury rates were not out of line with those elsewhere. This season, though, the company courted danger by consistently running races, often regardless of conditions, during one of Southern California’s wettest and coldest winters in decades.

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