Death toll at California horse track rises to 19 as employees test soil

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A horse racing track in Southern California has closed as employees seek to determine whether the soil and the excess rain in the area have contributed to the rising death toll of horses.

Mike Martin, public information officer for the California Horse Racing Board, confirmed to ABC News that 19 horses have died since the Santa Anita Park in Arcadia -- about 17 miles northeast of Los Angeles -- opened for the season on Dec. 26.

That's double the number of horses that died during the same time period last year, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Three horses died in a 16-hour period, one of which was 6-year-old Breeders’ Cup winner Battle of Midway, according to the LA Times.