08/01/2014 2:09PM

Trainers' group will recommend eliminating Del Mar turf sprints


DEL MAR, Calif. – Del Mar might eliminate turf sprints and reduce the number of claiming races on the surface for the rest of the summer meeting after a filly was seriously injured in a turf sprint on the troubled course Thursday, according to a track official.

Track and racing officials were scheduled to meet Friday to discuss options for turf racing through the end of the current meeting Sept. 3.

Turf racing was canceled from Friday through Sunday after the filly Serious suffered sesamoid injuries in a turf sprint. Previously, four horses were euthanized as a result of injuries sustained in turf races July 17, July 25, and July 26.

:: DRF Live: Get real-time updates and insights from DRF reporters and handicappers at Del Mar each race day

Track president Joe Harper said turf racing will not be held until Wednesday at the earliest to allow evaluation and maintenance of the course through the weekend. He said the decision was made in consultation with the California Horse Racing Board.

There is widespread concern that the turf course is too firm. The course is new, having been installed over the winter.

This is the second consecutive weekend in which turf races have been abandoned for at least one day. Turf racing was canceled last Sunday following the injuries that occurred the preceding two days. The course was then aerated and extensively watered. A similar maintenance plan is scheduled through Tuesday.

“We all still feel this is a safe course,” Harper said. “The racing-board investigators looked at it, and the jockeys like it, but it’s not forgiving to some horses.”

On Friday, Jim Cassidy, the president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers association, said he planned to attend a meeting with track and racing officials Friday and would recommend a reduction in the number of claiming races on turf and the elimination of turf sprints and turf workouts.

“I think they should scrap turf sprints,” Cassidy said.

Director of racing Tom Robbins said Friday there is likely to be an “overall reduction in turf races” through August, but he did not elaborate, pending discussions. Asked if he thought the turf course could be salvaged for the second half of the meeting, he said, “I do.”

Turf racing is a vital part of the track’s stakes schedule, with 20 of the 43 stakes run on the course. Several important turf races have yet to be run, including the $250,000 John Mabee Stakes on Aug. 10, the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 16, the $250,000 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 24, and the $300,000 Del Mar Derby on Aug. 31.

The status of two $90,000 stakes over five furlongs on turf – the Daisycutter Stakes for fillies and mares Aug. 8 and the Green Flash Handicap on Aug. 13 – was not immediately known.

Five turf races were canceled from Friday through Sunday. Four turf races were held without incident Wednesday and earlier on Thursday’s program before Serious was injured.

Serious, a 4-year-old trained by Vince Smith, was sent to a veterinarian clinic near Los Alamitos late Thursday to be evaluated. Harper said track veterinarian Dana Stead had advised that the filly be euthanized as a result of her injuries.

On Friday, several trainers questioned why Serious was allowed to start in the optional claimer. She won a $16,000 claimer for nonwinners of three at Santa Anita in May and had not raced since finishing last of eight in a starter allowance at Los Alamitos on July 3.

Harper said he remains hopeful that the issues concerning the turf course can be remedied. The track averaged slightly fewer than three turf races a day at the 2013 meeting.

“I don’t think it deserves to be abandoned,” he said.