How Horse Racing Went Horribly Wrong at Santa Anita

The Stronach Group is family-owned. The family patriarch, Frank Stronach, is a Canadian auto-parts billionaire who has invested much of his fortune in breeding and owning thoroughbreds and acquiring showpiece racetracks, even as interest in the sport has declined. He bought Santa Anita for $126 million in 1998.

There is a continuing financial battle within the company. Mr. Stronach, 86, is suing his daughter, Belinda, for nearly $400 million in Canada, alleging that she has enriched herself and locked him out of his empire. Ms. Stronach, 53, has countersued, asserting that her father has spent excessively, though she said she does not want to take the easy way out and sell the land to developers.

“I’m prepared to reinvest, make less money and put the foundation in a place that we can be proud of,” she said in an interview. “I’m not trying to get rid of it.”

On March 2, Eskenforadrink, a 4-year-old thoroughbred, arrived on the Santa Anita racetrack to an air of expectation. She was favored to win the third race of the day, one that came with a $22,000 purse.

She was slow out of the starting gate, but took the lead on the first turn of an oval muddied by rain.

Less than a minute into the one-mile race, Eskenforadrink lurched and began to stagger, her head bobbing unnaturally as she struggled to stand. Her jockey wrenched the reins to keep her from falling.

“You’re seeing it, and you don’t think it’s going to happen to you,” said the horse’s trainer, Jorge Gutierrez, 53, who watched the race from a monitor.