Del Mar announced Aug. 1 that it will eliminate turf sprints and no longer conduct grass claiming races during the current meet as part of its response to a rash of injuries on the new course, which was installed this past winter.
There have been at least five breakdowns on the newly expanded turf layout during the first two weeks of the meet, which began July 17. The new grass course replaced one that was in place for 50 years,.
Four of the horses so far have been euthanized.
The changes, which will take effect immediately, were listed in a press release issued by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
—No turf sprints will be conducted.
—No races for claiming horses will be written for the turf.
—Overall turf racing will be reduced by approximately one-third at the meet, allowing for additional aggressive maintenance, due to the provisions stated above.
—Renown surface expert Dr. Michael (Mick) Peterson has been enlisted as a track consultant.
—Pre-race inspections of all racehorses will be enhanced.
—All racing at Del Mar will be conducted on its Polytrack main track through Aug. 8; turf racing is scheduled to return Saturday, August 9.
"We are doing everything within our power to ensure a safe turf course," said Joe Harper, DMTC president and CEO. "Our riders and our trainers have told us that it is a safe course from the start and they continue to support us in that regard. Preparing to resume turf racing next week will allow our crews to perform additional safety measures."
Following a serious injury to a horse on the course July 31, Del Mar announced that it would not conduct any grass racing through the weekend of Aug. 1-3. During that time—and into the coming week—track crews will further aerate the course and include additional watering on it in an attempt to provide further softening to the surface.
Del Mar’s executive vice president for racing Tom Robbins said that the adjustments the track is making take all their earlier safety precautions yet another step ahead.
"Our turf sprints put extra stress on the course and by not running claiming horses on it we expect to be working with our very best horses," he said. "We’ll aggressively aerate more, water more and—with the goal of returning to grass racing next weekend—we’ll have the inner turf rail out to 24 feet, basically racing our horses over a fresh surface."
Del Mar has six different moves with its inner turf rail, going in six-foot increments from zero to 30 feet. During the meet it had raced with the inner rail at zero, six, and 18 feet.
DMTC officials noted that they had begun consultations with Peterson, the executive director of the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory, working in conjunction with the track’s turf superintendent Leif Dickinson.
"I am aware of the Del Mar turf course and all signs are that it is a safe one," noted Peterson. "The measurements and readings I’ve seen indicate they are well within proper parameters. I’ve worked with (Dickinson) in the past and have great confidence in his ability to do things the right way."
In addition, all racehorses entered to run will go through four different inspections by track and state veterinarians—first in the morning, then on three other occasions throughout the day—prior to racing in the afternoon.
Del Mar officials also say they will continue to work with the California Horse Racing Board safety stewards—in conjunction with their own safety steward—to be positive that all possible avenues have been explored in providing safety on the course.
Those same officials said they will continue full communication with the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the California Thoroughbred Trainers, and the Jockeys Guild.
Del Mar’s 36-day meeting is scheduled to run through Sept. 3.