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Despite Recent Deaths, Experts Say Horse Racing is Actually Getting Safer

SACRAMENTO -- With horse racing set to take place all weekend at Cal Expo, some have raised concerns after recent horse deaths in Southern California -- but experts insist the sport is safe.

"I think everyone is concerned, even we are at the track. That’s why we’ve adopted statewide medication rules that have cut down the types of medications a person can put in a horse," California Horse Racing Board steward Richard Lewis said.

Lewis is one of several stewards assigned to Cal Expo during the California State Fair.

"Horses are taking significant class drops, horses whose work patterns are different than they used to be," Lewis said. "And then when we make a list of those horses, the day they’re in, the veterinarians are taking double and triple looks at them."

Despite Thursday's incident at Del Mar in San Diego County in which two horses died in a freak training accident, and a spike in death at Santa Anita, experts say racing is actually getting safer for horses.

"Over the last five years, we've reduced the number of fatalities in California overall by over half," UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Professor Susan Stover said.

Stover works closely with the California Horse Racing Board, examining the bones of racing horses that have died and determining ways to prevent their injuries.

"We develop imaging technologies that are new and novel, like the pet scan unit that will be installed in Santa Anita Race Track, which we think will have a high likelihood of helping us detect pre-existing injuries," Stover told FOX40.

At Cal Expo, there is an alarm system in place for when a horse gets loose, like what happened at Del Mar, but experts tell us an accident like that one is extremely rare.

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