Los Angeles

Co-owner of Santa Anita Park Speaks on Future of Horse Racing

In his ad, Frank Stronach said he'd "invested approximately $1.5 billion to modernize and upgrade racetracks across America."

The founder of the company that owns and operates Santa Anita Park -- where 23 racehorses have died since Dec. 26 -- talked about "the future of horse racing in California" Tuesday night in Arcadia.

Frank Stronach, 86, announced his intention to speak on the topic via an "open letter" published in Sunday's Los Angeles Times that he addressed "to all horse lovers in the state of California."

Officials with The Stronach Group, which his daughter Belinda has headed since 2011, said the octogenarian will not be speaking on behalf of TSG.

"To avoid any confusion, TSG is in no way involved with the Tuesday meeting that was proposed in a paid advertisement in (Sunday's) Los Angeles Times," TSG Vice President of Communications Tiffani Steer told Thoroughbred Daily News.

"The host of the proposed meeting has no involvement with or oversight of any of our tracks and does not speak on behalf of TSG or Santa Anita Park. TSG will continue to work with our sport's stakeholders on progressive reforms to augment safety and bring the sport of horse racing into a new era."

The ad was purchased by Stronach International Inc., which Frank Stronach established last October in Canada, the same month he sued daughter Belinda Stronach, chairman and president of TSG, and former company CEO Alon Ossip, alleging financial mismanagement of the family's assets in TSG and various trusts.

In his ad, Frank Stronach said he'd "invested approximately $1.5 billion to modernize and upgrade racetracks across America."

"...I have always said that the key stakeholders within the industry are the racetrack owners, horse owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders and veterinarians," he said.

"As stakeholders, we have to prove to the public that we love and care for the horses not only while they are racing but long after they finished their racing career. That is why I strongly believe we need a Racing Charter of Rights where all the participants in our industry are protected, including the horses. I look forward to bringing forth a number of different ideas to you, the people which love horses. Let's work together to set the highest standards in horse racing! I look forward seeing you on Tuesday."

In its statement, TSG, which also owns Golden Gate Fields in California, Gulfstream Park in Florida and Pimlico and Laurel in Maryland, said the company "is proud to have worked with the California Horse Racing Board, as well as jockeys, trainers and horsemen from all over the country to push for generational reforms aimed at protecting riders and horses throughout our Sport."

Last week, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced the creation of a task force "of experienced deputy district attorneys and sworn peace officers with varied expertise within my office who will thoroughly investigate and evaluate the evidence to determine whether unlawful conduct or conditions affected the welfare and safety of horses at Santa Anita Park."

A statement issued in response to the announcement by the county's top prosecutor said Santa Anita "has, is and will continue to fully cooperate with the district attorney's investigation. The Stronach Group is fully committed to modernizing our sport in a way that prioritizes the welfare and safety of horses above all. We will work with anyone -- including the District Attorney's Office -- that shares our commitment to this cause."

Racing was suspended at the track for much of March while authorities studied the racing surface for possible causes of the horse deaths. Races resumed after the state horse racing board approved a series of safety measures, including limits on certain types of medications administered to horses.

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