07/28/2014 1:05PM

Del Mar to hold turf racing Wednesday despite horse deaths


DEL MAR, Calif. – Del Mar officials said they expected a return to grass racing when racing resumes Wednesday, following a tumultuous period last week in which three horses perished in races Friday and Saturday, causing a suspension of grass racing Sunday.

The three deaths brought to four the number of horses who had to be euthanized following injuries in grass races during the first eight days of the meet. In addition, four other horses have died either racing or training since the track opened just before the meet, which began July 17.

The turf course is new for this meet. It was grown in the desert for the past two years in preparation for it replacing the old course and was installed earlier this year.

All the injuries have occurred at different spots on the course. The first happened after the race, galloping out near the clubhouse turn. One happened at midstretch, one happened nearing the far turn, and the other happened on the far turn.

There were two grass races scheduled for Sunday, but both were moved to the main track, which has a synthetic Polytrack surface.

Joe Harper, the president and chief executive of Del Mar, said he thought suspending grass racing Sunday was the prudent move “because of the breakdowns on” the turf.

Del Mar officials said the course would be watered Sunday, but the course received some help from Mother Nature when a surprise storm dumped more than a half-inch of rain on Del Mar on Sunday morning.

The course was scheduled to be aerated Monday. The inner rail, which can be set at several different positions, was moved Sunday to 18 feet from its innermost setting, and that is where it will remain for Wednesday’s races.

Del Mar has three grass races carded for Wednesday, races 1, 3, and 6. A statement released by the track said it is expected that the “turf course will perform in a positive fashion” on Wednesday.

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

Del Mar’s meeting receives extensive coverage from the San Diego-area media. The turf course and overall fatality rate were prominent topics on local news broadcasts Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Chilled Mousse, an unraced 2-year-old colt, became the fifth horse to perish at Del Mar since Friday and the eighth overall at the meet when he suffered fatal injuries following a four-furlong workout on Polytrack on Sunday.

Chilled Mousse was timed in 50.20 seconds for what was to be his final drill for a scheduled debut Friday, but his injuries were so grave that he had to be euthanized, according to trainer Peter Miller.

“You try to do everything right – work right after the break, put on a light rider – and still it happens,” Miller said.

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

Van Dyke was taken to Scripps La Jolla Hospital on Saturday to be evaluated. His agent, Sarah Wolfe, said late Saturday that he checked out fine. But Van Dyke decided not to ride Sunday.

“He almost came back today, but we thought it was in his best interests to rest up, take another day to recoup,” Wolfe said Sunday. “He’s taken a couple bad spills the last two days. He’ll be back Wednesday.”

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

Last Friday, Yes She’s Unusual suffered a catastrophic injury in a turf sprint 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. Blanc was not named on any horses Wednesday but has two scheduled mounts Thursday.

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

– additional reporting by Steve Andersen

Ken David More than 1 year ago
I'm coming for Weezer, but I'm not betting a single dollar. This may be the end for me at Del Mar and with racing. I love watching horses run and other aspects of the races, but the death toll is not worth it. Track conditions? Horse conditions? I don't know, but if things are being pushed to their limits to get my dollar, here's the thing: I enjoy it enough that even if the races were 2 seconds slower, I'd still come.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Demon begone...
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Any one else, hold their breath for almost every race at DM today?
Judy Maass Gadwood More than 1 year ago
I had Cal racing on but didn't actually watched but listen to the call of the races. I can't handle seeing another breakdown :-(
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Well, after a"trial" run on the new sod, they've now suspended racing on it, again.
ctgreyhound More than 1 year ago
And they wonder why horse racing doesn't have a larger fan base.
Judy Maass Gadwood More than 1 year ago
May the blood of the horses who lost their lives on this track be on the hands of the Del Mar officials. Disgusting! And, forcing a horse into the gate when she knew she didn't want to run.... unacceptable. Her blood is on the hands of the Starters. Get a clue! When they have a jockey fatality will THAT open their eyes!? Disgusting and shameful. I'm surprised the jocks haven't protested; their lives on more on the line than ever! When I heard it was raining at Del Mar on Sunday - in my heart I felt it was the tears of the horses who died.
Judy Maass Gadwood More than 1 year ago
* their lives are more on the line.
Judy Maass Gadwood More than 1 year ago
I see my original comment was getting thumbs up then the heavies came in and offset it with thumbs down. I don't know HOW you people can look in the mirror. If you had any regard for human or equine life you'd understand where I was coming from. Shameful.
mike More than 1 year ago
Judy, You and I are on the same page with your comments. Good work!
Judy Maass Gadwood More than 1 year ago
Thanks! I'm glad someone understood where I was coming from. THE HORSES AND JOCKEY'S LIVES COME FIRST NOT THE BETTORS DEEP POCKETS :-(
Christie Sifferman More than 1 year ago
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
California has a serious water problem so why have turf track that youre not going to water.have synthetic and dirt.
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
I think Joe Harper is an idiot. He should have expected this to happen.
mike More than 1 year ago
Yes,he really an idiot for sure.
peter More than 1 year ago
Obviously and very unfortunately the new turf course has not taken hold and is very loose If i owned would not run a turf horse there and they are supposed to get the breeders cup in 2016 ? peter k
David Merz More than 1 year ago
Margaret More than 1 year ago
LET'S SEND THEM A MESSAGE-STOP WAGERING AT DEL MAR!!!! As an avid racing fan, I realize that this can be a very dangerous sport, not only to the thoroughbreds, but to the jockeys. When devastating events reoccur over and over obviously due to the same circumstances, it is inconceivable that Del Mar would continue to allow this newly created turf course to be used. I also am alarmed that owners, trainers and jockeys would subject their horses and themselves to the danger of this course. Does the phrase 'the race must go on" mean that much to Del Mar's bottom line?
David Merz More than 1 year ago
If it was as unsafe as you say the jockeys would refuse to ride...
mike More than 1 year ago
Well,I think after last week it illustrates something needs to be done.
Michael Castellano More than 1 year ago
Money unfortunately talks in racing. The turf course and probably the artificial surface are unsafe, but that will not stop them. Something as yet unknown is affecting the horses -- if I had to guess I'd say it's uneven footing. When I used to run on a mostly hard grass surface I'd occasionally hit a wet spot with just one foot. This would throw me completely off balance. Horses have four legs, making matters worse. It will take a lot more bad things happening to make them stop racing, and we might unfortunately see that.