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