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Two more horses die at Santa Anita as equine community searches for answers

Researches from the University of Kentucky are working with tracks nationwide to reduce risks for horses

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Two more horses died on the Santa Anita horse track over the weekend, bringing the total number of horses that have died since December up to 29.

The California Horse Racing Board is calling for the race track to suspend its meet. Santa Anita works with 13 other tracks in the country to come up with best practices for maintaining tracks and making sure horses are safe.  

Dr. Mick Peterson, a professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering and director of the Ag Equine Programs at the University of Kentucky, conducts research and shares information with those 14 tracks as part of a maintenance quality system.

RELATED: Feinstein joins call for Santa Anita to suspend racing

Peterson said that when it comes to the risks facing horses, it’s always multi-factorial.

"We need to understand what the risk to the horse is but that takes a huge amount of data” Peterson said. “For right now, we're just looking for anomalies that we can eliminate.”

Peterson said the 17 inches of rain Santa Anita saw between January and March was definitely a risk factor. He has provided the typically-dry racetrack with reports on how the weather has affected the track compared to previous years.

With each death comes a team of experts who try to find out what went wrong. The last two deaths don't appear to be track related but Peterson will still contribute the track information he’s gathered.

RELATED: 2nd horse in 2 days, 29th overall, dies at Santa Anita

"You know these recent issues at Santa Anita makes you wonder if we can move fast enough,” Peterson said. "By protecting the horses, we're protecting the industry and just doing the right thing."

According to data from the California Horse Racing Board, 29 deaths on Santa Anita's racetrack is actually a pretty low number compared to other years. We went back four years and here's what we found: 

2015: 39 deaths

2016: 57 deaths

2017: 54 deaths

2018: 37 deaths 

Contact reporter Kristin Goodwillie at KGoodwillie@whas11.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook

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