BERKELEY, Calif. - Golden Gate Fields has seen four horse deaths in the past two weeks, with the latest being a female horse named Navy Queen.
Navy Queen died on Sunday, Oct. 1 at the racetrack. The death is listed under musculoskeletal equine fatalities, according to the California Horse Racing Board.
Paul Darwin Picklesimer, an organizer with Direct Action Everywhere SF Bay Area, has participated in several protests outside Golden Gate Fields. The track has seen a total of 12 horse deaths since the start of 2023, which were attributed to a mix of injuries while racing or training, or due to illness.
"It's tragic, but it's not that surprising," Darwin Picklesimer said. "The deaths are just simply inherent. No matter what they do there are always going to be deaths."
California Horse Racing Board equine medical director, Dr. Jeff Blea, disagrees. He said horse welfare and safety is a table of what the agency does.
"We're making every attempt to get that number down to zero," he said.
According to Blea, deaths at Golden Gate Fields have gone down in the past few years.
A full review process, including a comprehensive necropsy will be performed on Navy Queen. A CHRB vet will also pull training and medical records for the horse for the at least the past 60 days. Any footage related to the animal will also be reviewed and interviews will be conducted. Blea said the process includes roughly 6-8 people, including the horse’s trainer.
"It's an educational process for the trainer and anyone else involved to understand and identify what happened and how to prevent it in the future," he said.
Stream KTVU on your TV by downloading Fox Local on your Roku, Amazon Fire, AndroidTV or AppleTV device for free. More details here.
Navy Queen's trainer, David W. Baker, has had three horses die in his care in the past 90 days. Investigators will look into whether a rule violation contributed to or could have prevented the horse's death. If a rule violation is found, investigators will be notified, and a complaint may be filed.
"The California Horse Racing Board takes horse deaths extremely seriously and we've been working diligently the last few years to reduce our numbers, not only through trainer continued education, but numerous safety initatives and rules," Blea added.
Darwin Picklesimer said he doesn’t believe in gambling on horse racing and feels the animals will ultimately be harmed when the event relies on pushing them to their limits.
"Minor decreases [in deaths] over the years or even significant ones don't mean what's happening there is ok," he said. "It just means there's work to be done and the place should probably be shut down."
Golden Gate Fields was set to close at the end of the year, but that closure was reportedly met with objections for how sudden it was. It appears the track will stay open through June 2024. KTVU did not hear back from GGF parent company, The Stronach Group, before deadline.