07/26/2014 9:48PM

Breakdowns prompt Sunday's turf races to be moved to main track

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Citing concern over a turf course that has seen three horses fatally injured in the last 48 hours, Joe Harper, the president and chief executive of Del Mar, on Saturday said Del Mar would move its two grass races Sunday to the main Polytrack course.

Harper said he thought this was the prudent move with the turf course “because of the breakdowns on it.”

Two horses died in separate incidents on Saturday on the turf. One more was euthanized after a grass race on Friday. In addition, a horse was euthanized after being severely injured on the main track on Friday.

So, in the past 48 hours, four horses have perished in races here. There have been four deaths on the turf in races this season, including one opening day. The meet is eight days old.

Harper said the turf course, which was new this year and has yielded quick times, would be aerated on Monday, and that the inner turf rail would be moved out to 18 feet.

Harper came to the press box between the ninth and 10th races on Saturday to address media members. He said members of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, California Thoroughbred Trainers, and local jockeys were all consulted. He said the jockeys have been positive about the course. “They say it is fast, but it has bounce to it,” Harper said.

Jockey Drayden Van Dyke hit the course hard on Saturday when his mount in the fifth race, Lil Swiss Echo, suffered a gruesome breakdown to a foreleg that necessitated her being euthanized on the course just yards before the finish.

Van Dyke was taken to Scripps La Jolla Hospital to be evaluated. His agent, Sarah Wolfe, said late Saturday that he checked out fine. He was expected to ride Sunday.

Later Saturday, J Kat suffered a fatal injury in the ninth race, but jockey Corey Nakatani prevented him from falling.

On Friday, Yes She’s Unusual suffered a catastrophic injury in a turf sprint, a race in which four of the 10 runners failed to finish. Brice Blanc, aboard Yes She’s Unusual, took off his mounts Saturday and Sunday after hitting the ground hard when dislodged from Yes She’s Unusual.

Van Dyke fell in that race, too – his mount impacted by Yes She’s Unusual – but he continued to ride on Friday and on Saturday until the incident with Lil Swiss Echo.

In Friday’s featured Cougar II Handicap, on Polytrack, Longview Drive severely injured sesamoids in a front leg and had to be euthanized.

The four racing-related deaths on Friday and Saturday came on the heels of the fatal injuries suffered by Blue Grass winner Dance With Fate during a training accident on Thursday that was not related to the racing surface.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen