Del Mar Dark This Weekend After 15 Riders Test Positive for COVID-19

Posted on: July 17, 2020, 07:12h. 

Last updated on: July 17, 2020, 10:15h.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will not race this weekend after the southern California track reported that 15 jockeys tested positive for COVID-19. The San Diego County track was scheduled to race Friday through Sunday.

Del Mar COVID-19
Hit the Road races to a win in the Runhappy Oceanside Stakes on Del Mar’s opening day of the summer meet last Friday. Track officials closed the track this weekend after 15 jockeys tested positive for COVID-19. (Image: Benoit Photo/Del Mar)

The news came after two high profile jockeys — Flavien Prat and Victor Espinoza — tested positive. That prompted the horse racing track to test all the jockeys and staffers on Tuesday.

Dr. Eric McDonald, the San Diego County medical director for epidemiology and immunizations services, said in a track news release that, provided those tested remained asymptomatic, they would be isolated for 10 days and then cleared to resume riding.

Racing will return on July 24,” said Joe Harper, Del Mar’s CEO in a statement. “Canceling this weekend’s races will give us additional time to monitor the situation and give the individuals who tested positive additional time to recover.”

Del Mar is taking some steps to reconfigure the jockeys’ quarters at the track to help foster more social distancing.

Track officials held a conference call with members of the Thoroughbred Owners of California Thursday afternoon to discuss the situation. On it, they said they would request an extra day of racing with the California Horse Racing Board.

BloodHorse reported that the CHRB approved the extra date, July 27.

Del Mar’s summer racing season started last Friday, July 10, and is scheduled to conclude on Labor Day.

In late March, Santa Anita Park shut down after health officials in Los Angeles County ordered it to close in accordance with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-home order. A week later, Alameda County officials issued a similar directive for Golden Gate Fields. Both tracks reopened for racing in mid-May.

Sequestration at Saratoga, Del Mar

News of Prat and Espinoza testing positive earlier this week set off moves by Del Mar and another major track currently operating.

First, the New York Racing Association announced it would prohibit out-of-town jockeys from coming onto Saratoga Race Course, limiting races to the 22 jockeys and three apprentices currently located at the upstate track. In addition, any rider who leaves Saratoga, whose summer meet started Thursday, to race elsewhere would not be allowed back. Like Del Mar, Saratoga’s meet is scheduled to end on Labor Day.

Shortly after NYRA made its decision, Del Mar officials announced that only jockeys based in California would be allowed to race at the track. Also, a jockey who leaves to race elsewhere would not be allowed to return.

Safety Issues Arise at Another California Track

While Del Mar is dark for this weekend, another southern California track faces the threat of a shutdown, but not for medical reasons.

Last Friday, the CHRB held an emergency meeting to discuss a high number of equine deaths at Los Alamitos, a track in Orange County. More than 20 horses have died at the track this year, with more than half of those coming since late May.

The board gave Los Alamitos officials 10 days to develop a plan to improve safety, and the track announced on Wednesday it submitted a plan for board members to review. The CHRB is scheduled to reconvene Monday to review the plan.

In a statement, Los Alamitos owner and CEO Dr. Ed Allred said he would welcome comments from the CHRB and others in the industry to bolster safety for both horses and riders.