Turf Races Back on Track at Del Mar

Administrators plan to maintain aggressive up-keep of the new track to prevent more horse deaths

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is reopening its turf track following a week-long closure aimed at preventing further equine deaths. NBC 7's Monica Dean reports. (Published Saturday, Aug 9, 2014)

    Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is reopening its turf track following a week-long closure aimed at preventing further equine deaths.

    Three races will resume on the new turf track at 2 p.m. on Saturday, a Del Mar spokesperson has confirmed.

    The course was initially closed from July 27 to July 30 in response to seven horse deaths at Del Mar – four of which happened after falls on the turf.

    But its reopening on July 30 led to another serious equine injury the next day, prompting a decision by track officials to close it yet again on Aug. 1 and spend the next week adjusting it.

    Those adjustments included moving the inner rail from its 12-foot position to the 24-foot position, aerating the course and giving it extra water. Jockeys try to stay close to the rail because it's the shortest path around the track, but that wears out the grass quickly.

    Workers hope to soften the turf enough to prevent ruts and more injuries. Last week, Del Mar also announced plans to hire a track consultant.

    However, the spokesperson for Del Mar maintains the track itself is not to blame for the fatal injuries, and Dr. Rick Arthur, the equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board, told NBC last week the track is likely not the reason behind the deaths.

    Arthur said 85 to 90 percent of horses have some pre-existing pathology that goes undetected by current veterinarian diagnosis. All race horses must undergo frequent evaluations before racing, on race day and possibly after their runs.

    The seven horses that died from race-related injuries, as well as two others that died at the track, will be undergoing a necropsy to determine their causes of death. Those results might not finished for several months. 

    Despite the most recent reopening, turf races will still be reduced by a third this season to allow for more aggressive up-keep. Authorities have also decided to forgoe sprint races on the turf and instead do two-turn races, making it much easier on the course and horses.