07/22/2011 3:52PM

California changes claiming rule involving horses who are euthanized on the track

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DEL MAR, Calif. – A rule change that will void claims on horses who are fatalities during a race will be enacted later this summer or early fall, after being passed by the California Horse Racing Board on Thursday.

But judging from statistics, the circumstances are unlikely to occur with frequency. According to statistics presented at Thursday’s racing board meeting, there were six instances of horses with pending claims being euthanized on the Northern and Southern California Thoroughbred circuits from Jan. 1, 2007 through Sept. 1, 2010. Thoroughbred races at Los Alamitos were not included in the statistics.

The issue was opposed by the Thoroughbred Owners of California and the California Thoroughbred Trainers and was passed by a 5-2 margin by the racing board. The amended rule states that “stewards shall void the claim if the horse suffers a fatality during the running of the race or before the horse is returned to be unsaddled.”

Currently, a claim takes effect when the starting gate opens, regardless of whether a horse finishes a race.

One reason for the low number of fatal incidents cited in the racing board report is the practice by official track veterinarian Dana Stead, and his predecessors, to remove horses from the racetrack via a horse ambulance with the exception of the most severely injured cases. Stead said that if a horse can be placed on a horse ambulance then further evaluation on the condition can be made at the trainer’s stable, frequently in consultation with a private veterinarian, or in dire cases, the horse can be transported to the barn area to be euthanized.

Stead said the rule change “won’t impact the way I do my job.”

“I’ll make the decision in the same manner,” Stead said between races on Thursday. “If the horse can be loaded for further evaluation I’ll do that. If it’s the gravest injury, I’ll euthanize on the racetrack.

“I’d prefer to load the horse on the ambulance. It makes the euthanasia safer for everyone. No one wants to see a horse euthanized on the racetrack.”

Eurton, Belvoir early leaders

Trainers Peter Eurton and Vann Belvoir have each won two races in the first two days, leaving them tied for first in the standings of the 37-day Del Mar meeting.

Eurton won a maiden race for 2-year-old fillies on Wednesday with Weemissfrankie, a candidate for the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3. Thursday, he won an optional claimer with Jet Blue Girl, a candidate for the $85,000 Adoration Stakes on Sept. 4.

Belvoir, in his first season at Del Mar, has won with two outsiders – Mentidoso ($38.40) in a $25,000 claimer on Wednesday and Certified Diamond ($13.80) in an $8,000 claimer on Thursday. He brought 16 horses from Emerald Downs and Golden Gate Fields and is considering having a long-term presence on the circuit.

“If I can keep a string here, that would be great,” he said.

Sunday, Belvoir starts the Emerald Downs stakes winner Mack’s Gold Bullet in a one-mile turf race for $40,000 claimers. She has been running in main track sprints in her first four starts.

“We’re asking her to do two different things,” Belvoir said. “I think she should handle it.”