ARCADIA (CBSLA) — Santa Anita Park opened its new season Saturday with horses hitting the track and fans filling the stadium following a turbulent year.

“We love the racing,” one spectator said. “And I know everybody in this track, and everybody that works here, is very involved and cares for the horses.”

After 37 horse deaths in the past year at the track, Santa Anita officials claimed safety was of the utmost priority for them.

“We’ve put in a lot of reforms here at Santa Anita,” Craig Fravel, CEO Racing, Stronach Group, said. “It’s been very effective, and I think it’s one of the safest racetracks in the world right now. And we’re very proud of everything we’ve been doing.”

Earlier this month, park officials unveiled a new high-tech scanner that will be used to examine horses. Officials said the device was the first of its kind and more thorough than ever.

But activists said it was all too little, too late. A small group of protesters gathered outside the park Saturday to demand horse racing be suspended.

“With this racetrack the killing continues,” a protester said. “It cannot be reformed, it cannot be fixed. There is no compromise. Horse racing must be phased out.”

The California Horse Racing Board is set to issue a report next month on the horse deaths, but the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has already concluded that there was no criminal wrongdoing connected to the deaths.

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