Two horses dead after freak accident while training at Del Mar track in California

Two more race horses are dead, this time just two days into the fabled annual summer meet at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club just north of San Diego.

It was a freak accident. Two horses collided during training Thursday morning. But it adds to a storm of bad publicity swirling around the sport in California. Just last month, Santa Anita Park outside Los Angeles finished its winter-spring season with 30 horse fatalities in racing and training. The death toll drew national media attention and led to a temporary shutdown of the track as it evaluated safety measures.

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Now this. One of the horses that died was under the care of trainer Bob Baffert.

“This was a very unfortunate accident, and it is a shock to everyone in the barn,” Baffert said in a statement. “We work every day to take the best care of our horses, but sometimes freak accidents occur that are beyond anyone’s ability to control. This is one of those times, and we’re deeply saddened for the horses and everyone involved.”

Track veterinarians and emergency personnel were on the scene and responded immediately.

“We are deeply sorry for the horses and their owners, trainers, riders and grooms,” Del Mar said in a statement.

Del Mar said the accident occurred near the six-furlong pole when Charge A Bunch, trained by Carla Gaines, threw his rider, Geovanni Franco, and turned sharply. It collided with another horse, Carson Valley, who was completing a four-furlong workout for Baffert and jockey Assael Espinoza.

Del Mar otherwise has been considered a relatively safe track. A spokesman for the track said Thursday it had just seven deaths last year, including four in training during its summer and fall meets. Three came during races out of 3,812 starts, according to the Equine Injury Database, which tracks fatal horse breakdowns in racing, not training. That translates to 0.79 deaths per 1,000 starts and was the lowest among the major tracks in the country.

The national rate in 2018 was 1.68, according to the database. Santa Anita’s recent rate was 3.17. But those numbers fluctuate without clear causality. In 2016, Del Mar had 12 deaths during racing for a rate of 3.01 deaths per 1,000 starts, which is similar to the tragic figures at Santa Anita.

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