26th horse dies at Santa Anita racetrack in California, officials investigate possible safety protocol breach

Lawmakers and advocacy groups on Tuesday renewed calls for an investigation and halt to horseracing at a Southern California track where a racehorse euthanized Sunday marked the facility's third death in just nine days and 26th fatality since December.

The most recent horse to be euthanized, Kochees, sustained a leg injury during a race Saturday when the 9-year-old was pulled up by jockey Mario Gutierrez entering the top stretch of the 5 1/2-furlong race.

The horse was taken from the track in a van with a splint applied to his front left leg.

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Despite initial hopes the injury could be corrected through surgery, doctors soon realized the gelding had lost blood flow to his leg, ultimately leading to the decision to euthanize him.

This March 7, 2019, file photo, shows the empty home stretch at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

This March 7, 2019, file photo, shows the empty home stretch at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Kochees’ trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, has lost two other horses at Santa Anita.

The latest death is also the third horse fatality at the now-infamous racetrack in just 9 days. Commander Coil was euthanized after suffering an injury during a May 18 gallop and Spectacular Music, an unraced 3-year-old, was euthanized after sustaining a pelvic injury during a May 19 training incident

Track officials are now investigating to see if the proper protocols were followed leading up to Kochees' death.

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Among the rules put in place since March, a trainer's veterinarian must now sign off on a horse's fitness before the track's veterinarian examines the animal ahead of its training or racing.

Vino Rosso and jockey John Velazquez, center left, outgame Gift Box with jockey Joel Rosario for victory in the Grade I, The Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., Monday, May 27, 2019. (Benoit Photo via AP)

Vino Rosso and jockey John Velazquez, center left, outgame Gift Box with jockey Joel Rosario for victory in the Grade I, The Gold Cup at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., Monday, May 27, 2019. (Benoit Photo via AP)

Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for The Stronach Group, which owns the track, told The Associated Press on Monday that, if the track owner finds any of the new rules were overlooked, the “consequences will be swift.”

"I'm not going to get into specifics of that incident, but anybody who thinks they can sort of skirt the rules, and perhaps there was an old way of doing things, it's not going to fly anymore,” Friedman said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also renewed her calls Monday to place a moratorium on races at the track.

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“How many more horses must die before concrete steps are taken to address what is clearly an acute problem?” she said in a statement. “We need a thorough investigation of practices and conditions at the track before any more races are held.”

Santa Anita closed the track briefly in early March after the death of the 21st horse.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.