08/09/2014 9:47PM

Improved conditions as turf racing resumes

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Turf racing resumed at Del Mar for the first time in nine days Saturday, with three races run on the course without incident. The drama on the surface was limited to close finishes and an exciting rally by Enterprising in the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap.

In the first week of August, the turf course was extensively aerated and watered in an effort to make the surface kinder. Four horses were euthanized as a result of injuries suffered in turf races from July 17 through July 26. Turf racing was cancelled July 27 for a brief period of maintenance.

Turf racing resumed without incident July 30 but was suspended after racing July 31, when the filly Serious suffered a sesamoid injury in a turf sprint that day. In the first week of August, the turf course underwent a more extensive maintenance program than the previous week. The course may have been helped by two rainstorms July 27 and Aug. 2 that produced approximately two-thirds of an inch of rain.

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On Saturday, three races were run at a mile to 1 1/16 miles with 22 horses running safely in those races. Jockeys were universal in their praise for the course, although some said they liked it before the interruption.

“I thought it felt good [then],” said jockey Joe Talamo of late July conditions. “Horses are coming from off of it and winning close by. It’s got a good cushion.”

Apprentice jockey Drayden Van Dyke said the course Saturday felt “the same to me all around. I’m sure it’s better with the rain and the things they did to take care of it.”

Jockey Martin Garcia rode Schoolofhardrocks to a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap for 3-year-olds on turf. Garcia said the condition of the course has improved.

“It’s better than before,” Garcia said. “It’s longer, and the horses have cushion.”

Beginning Saturday through the end of the meeting Sept. 3, turf racing will be restricted to stakes, maiden special-weight races, and optional claimers at a mile or farther. Sprints or races for claimers or starter-allowance class horses will not be offered.

Sunday’s nine-race program includes two turf races, highlighted by the $250,000 John Mabee Stakes for fillies and mares over 1 1/8 miles.

As turf racing resumed Saturday, Serious continues to recover. She is recuperating at Los Alamitos and could be bred in 2015, according to trainer Vince Smith.