CA: Santa Anita races continue amid horse deaths

(CNN) Arcadia, CA – Santa Anita park’s biggest day of racing went off without any injuries.

It comes after arms runner had to be euthanized last Sunday after he tripped and fell with another horse.

For Theresa Richards and Michael Hearn – attending the park’s flagship derby day is a family tradition.

“I’ve been bringing her for about 10,12 years. So between that time me and her haven’t seen a lot, a lot of deaths. ”

But there have been plenty of deaths at Santa Anita.

23 animals have been put down – because of injuries since late December.

Santa Anita re-opened last week – following a 24-day suspension – and new safety protocols were put in place.

Today about 50-activists demonstrated outside the track.

“Our goal today is to increase pressure on this death track. We want it shut down. We want horse racing to end in California.”

Derby day is a big deal because the highest stakes race is a million dollar steppingstone to qualify for the Kentucky derby.

Fans like the Hearn family say they’re saddened by the surge of fatalities – but they don’t believe the animals are mistreated.

“They eat well. They go to the veterinarian. You know they get taken care of. They can’t even step on the track unless they’re prepared to run.”

California senator Dianne Feinstein and congresswoman Judy Chu are demanding racing at the track end until an investigation into the 23 horse deaths is finished.