ARCADIA (CBSLA/AP) — Santa Anita Park is postponing the opening day of its winter-spring meet by two days to Dec. 28 ahead of next week’s forecast that calls for rain.

The Southern California racetrack announced its decision on Saturday. It will be the first time since 1973-74 that the meet doesn’t open on its traditional date of Dec. 26. Santa Anita last opened on Dec. 28 in 1971.

READ MORE: CDC Advisory Panel Votes To Approve Pfizer Booster Shots For Some Adults

A total of 37 horses have died at Santa Anita since last December, triggering intense scrutiny of the track and horse safety in the sport.

Aidan Butler, acting executive director of California operations for track owner The Stronach Group, says Santa Anita’s commitment to safety takes priority. He says it was important to make the decision as early as possible for the horsemen, fans and employees.

The stakes races scheduled for Thursday will be run next Saturday.

READ MORE: Metro Testing Trains Along Route Of Future Crenshaw/LAX Line

Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella says track officials are doing the right thing by pushing back the races.

Last year’s opening day drew 41,373 and set a record of over $20 million for all-time opening day wagering.

Live racing will be held next Saturday and Sunday, along with Jan. 1, and Jan. 3-5.

MORE NEWS: Students Welcomed Back To UC Riverside Neighborhood With Mr. Rogers-Style Video

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)