Filly euthanized; 4th horse death at Golden Gate Fields this year

Animal rights activists with Direct Action Everywhere hold signs outside Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, Calif. on Dec. 9, 2022, with the names of racehorses that have died (Direct Action Everywhere via Bay City News).

A 3-year-old filly was euthanized at Golden Gate Fields last week after winning her last race, the fourth horse death reported at the Berkeley track this year.

The horse, Ultimate Diva, was entered in race 3 on March 3 at the track. But after taking the lead early and finishing in first place, the filly "suffered a catastrophic injury past the wire and was euthanized on the track," according to the Equibase race card about the event. 

Details on the horse's injury were not available, but the California Horse Racing Board lists the death as "musculoskeletal," meaning a bone injury.

The thoroughbred's death is the fourth so far this year at Golden Gate Fields, and the track's 19th since January 2022. In 2021, 26 racehorses died at the track.

Causes of death listed by the horse racing board include colic-gastrointestinal, neurological, cellulitis, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and unknown. Some causes are still pending and three of the deaths are listed as accidents.

Samantha Eachus, an advocate for horses who is critical of the racing/gambling industry, flagged the most recent death at Golden Gate Fields as a sign that horses are ridden far too young, aren't exercised enough and fed a diet that's only aimed to improve their racing, not their health, she said.

Over a two-year period, Ultimate Diva won $32,380 for her owner, listed as Baseline Equine LLC, according to statistics listed by Equibase. 

"They are ridden much younger than they should be ridden and are used as money-making machines," Eachus said. "There's no amount of money that is worth racing a young horse to death."

Golden Gate Fields did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The California Horse Racing Board, which tracks racing horse fatalities, has taken measures that have reduced deaths at California tracks by more than 50 percent over the past three years, spokesperson Mike Marten said.

One of those has been a requirement that every horse is reviewed by an expert panel to determine its fitness for a race.