Del Mar Shifts Races Off Turf after Breakdowns

Over the weekend, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, in California, moved two turf races scheduled for Sunday, July 27 to its main track in light of four breakdowns that have occurred on the course since the meeting began July 17.

"We feel that the best course of action is to cancel tomorrow's two turf races," Joe Harper, president and CEO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club said July 26. "That will give us more days coming up, with Monday and Tuesday, to do the maintenance we had scheduled for Monday."

Del Mar was already scheduled to move the rail out to 18 feet to use a new portion of the track. Harper said that they will also aerate the entire course, "which should slow it down a little bit and give it more bounce."

Harper said that Del Mar made the decision after talking with the jockeys, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and the California Thoroughbred Trainers.

Del Mar installed a new turf course for the 2014 season, widening it to 80 feet and installing all new sod: a hybrid Bermuda strain invented by golfer Greg Norman.

The four horses that broke down since the start of the meet all had to be euthanized.

On opening day, July 17, Kokaltash finished third in a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race and had to be vanned off. Yes She's Unusual broke down in a five-furlong allowance/optional claimer on the turf July 25 and did not finish.

Two horses broke down during the July 26 card.

In the fifth race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claimer on the turf, Lil Swiss Echo, broke down in her right front in the stretch, unseating apprentice Drayden Van Dyke. The jockey took off his mounts for the rest of the card and went to a nearby hospital for observation.

Harper reported that Van Dyke was fine, although the jockey was later reported off his mounts for July 27.

In the ninth race, a 1 1/16-mile maiden race for 3-year-olds on the turf, J Kat fractured the sesamoids in his left foreleg. Jockey Corey Nakatani, who was uninjured, pulled up the colt in the final turn.

"We can all second-guess ourselves—did we do everything right?" said Harper. "But we would not have put this track into operation if Leif (Dickinson, turf course superintendent) didn't think it was perfectly safe. It's a new track, and with new tracks come problems that you don't always see out there. We have great confidence in Leif. It was his decision to speed up the maintenance."

Del Mar later released a statement, which said in part, "Track officials feel that they are adjusting on the side of caution with these moves. They are meant to give all parties involved—riders, trainers, owners, and fans—assurance that everything possible is being done to ensure the track’s first priority, which is safety of horses and riders. Those same officials feel strongly that when racing resumes on Wednesday (July 30), the turf course will perform in a positive fashion."

Originally published on

About the Author

Tracy Gantz

Tracy Gantz is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She is the Southern California correspondent for The Blood-Horse and a regular contributor to Paint Horse Journal, Paint Racing News, and Appaloosa Journal.

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