News and STORIES

MRI Facility To Be Installed At Santa Anita

Author: Clint Goodman
Published: Wednesday November 20, 2019
On Nov. 19, the Southern California Equine Foundation (SCEF) announced that an equine Standing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) facility will be installed at Santa Anita Park. The news comes after a successful fund-raising campaign. 

Karen Klawitter, the CEO of SCEF, spoke about the new development. 

"We are in the process now of arranging for the full operation of the new MRI by early in the upcoming Santa Anita season," said Klawitter. "We are very pleased to have received the support of so many individuals and organizations in the sport."


The Dolly Green Research Foundation and Oak Tree Charitable Foundation made leadership pledges to secure the funding, and donations have been made by Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Los Alamitos Race Course, California Thoroughbred Trainers, California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation, breeder and owner John Harris, veterinarians Vince Baker, Melinda Blue, Ryan Carpenter, and other individual owners, trainers, and supporters. 

The owners of Santa Anita, the Stronach Group, provided $500,000 in funding for the positron new emission tomography (PET) scan facility, as well as the infrastructure for the installation of the new MRI. The MRI will join the Southern California Equine Foundation’s already existing Imaging Center. 

This technology has already been used in other places. The horse is scanned while standing, and it is an important piece of equipment to ensure the safety of racehorses. 

The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, along with LONGMILE Veterinary Imaging, announced on Tuesday that the first phase of validation of the MILE-PET has been completed. MILE-PET is the first PET scanner dedicated to scanning the limbs of standing horses through the use of light sedation. This allows the scan to be done without the use of anesthesia. 

The first phase of the study was funded by the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation and finished under the supervision of Dr. Mathieu Spriet, associate professor of veterinary radiology at UC Davis. It established protocols and validated the safety of the system by using research horses from the UC Davis Center for Equine Health. The standing scanner was used twice on six horses, and one time they were under general anesthesia. The researchers then compared the results with the previously used techniques on anesthetized horses. 

Improved Horse Racing Safety

All of the horses tolerated the new system well, and all of the imaging sessions went without complications. The quality of the resulting images was similar to the other techniques. 

"I am very excited to report that everything worked according to plan, if not better! I am very impressed with the quality of images we were able to obtain," said Dr. Spriet.

The researchers compared scan lengths ranging from one to 10 minutes, and the team found that a four-minute scan is long enough to obtain the needed images. The fast time allows multiple images to be taken in a short amount of time. 

The MILE-PET can now be used on racehorses in training. The clinical trial is set to begin at UC Davis and later be moved to Santa Anita Park by mid-December. 

The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine released a statement about the project. 

"The Stronach Group, owners of Santa Anita Park, and the Southern California Equine Foundation, who operate the veterinary hospital at Santa Anita, have been key partners in the project by supporting the scanner development costs," it read. "Although this project has been in the works for more than a year, the recent highly mediatized horse fatalities in Southern California have highlighted the need for improved safety in horse racing. Availability of imaging techniques that are able to detect bone changes that might predispose to catastrophic breakdowns is one of the measures that has been proposed to reduce the track fatalities."