Concerns Arise as Santa Anita Opens Following FedEx Horse Shipping Shutdown

“Santa Anita Race Track Faces Unique Hurdles in Shipping Horses”

The opening lines of the 1999 movie “Runaway Bride” exemplifies the simplicity of a FedEx delivery as actress Julia Roberts hops on the back of a FedEx truck. However, in reality, it is far from being simple today. In fact, FedEx has suspended transporting horses from December 3rd through Christmas, making it challenging for horse trainers to ship their horses to the Santa Anita race track, which is set to open its signature meet next Tuesday.

Santa Anita in California is known for its prestigious horse races, with the opening day featuring three Grade 1 and three Grade 2 stakes races. However, only five of the 89 horses entered are traditional shippers, primarily located in Kentucky and Louisiana.

In the past, Tex Sutton was the main air transport company for horses, but it lost its lease on a jet, leaving the racing industry, including Santa Anita, in a scramble to find an alternative solution. Craig Fravel, Executive Vice Chair of Racing and Gaming for the Stronach Group, expressed the industry’s challenges and lack of infrastructure to transport horses.

Adding to the complexity, shipping a horse by plane is an expensive proposition, costing around $3,000 to $4,000 one way, especially when coming from the East Coast to Santa Anita. Despite efforts to solve the transportation issue, the industry continues to struggle, reflecting the broader lack of coordination in the racing sector.

Santa Anita’s opening day is also shadowed by the lack of top contenders, such as Flightline and other famous horses from previous years, retiring or not participating in this year’s race. However, the Grade 1 $300,000 Malibu Stakes and the American Oaks, among other Grade 1 and Grade 2 races, promises an exciting lineup for the fans.

While Santa Anita continues to face challenges in horse transportation and the absence of top contenders, the opening day next Tuesday aims to showcase thrilling races and the adrenaline of the sport, despite the industry’s ongoing struggle for efficient transportation of horses.

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