Building on industry-leading safety and welfare measures, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (DMTC), operators of San Diego County’s iconic horse racing venue at Del Mar, today announced a series of initiatives to enhance safety protocols and procedures as the track prepares to celebrate its 80th season of racing.
These initiatives build on effective safety and welfare measures that Del Mar introduced over the last several seasons of racing and which led to Del Mar being recognized as one the safest racetracks in the US in 2018, according to The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database.
“Del Mar continues to strive to provide the safest environment possible for our equine and human athletes for both racing and training,” said Chief Executive Officer Joe Harper. “We have a responsibility to implement the best practices for safety and welfare and the further responsibility to educate the public about these practices and about the extraordinary levels of care provided to our equine athletes.”
Among the additional steps Del Mar is enacting for the 2019 season:
- Entry Review Panel: All horses entered to race at Del Mar will be reviewed by a five-person panel consisting of: CHRB Equine Medical Director, Dr. Rick Arthur; two CHRB veterinarians - Dr. William Farmer and Dr. Timothy Grande; CHRB Chief Steward, Darrel McHargue and CHRB Safety Steward, Luis Jauregui. The panel will provide additional review of horses’ medical, training and racing history. The panel will recommend to the Stewards that any horse that it deems unfit for competition be declared from racing.
- Medication Reform: Del Mar is adopting additional reforms modeled after the International Federation Horseracing Association (IFHA) requirements. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories), that were allowed previously up to 24 hours in advance of a race, will be restricted to 48 hours before either a race or workout. The time period that allowed therapeutic usage of corticosteroids in joint treatment has been extended from the previous length of three days before a race to 14 days and horses will not be allowed to start until after the 14-day window.
- Increases in out-of-competition testing: Random testing will be instituted for any horses stabled at Del Mar, including horses readying for - or having just completed - morning workouts.
- Enhanced stable security: Working in conjunction with the investigative staff of the CHRB, an enhanced stable security team will monitor all aspects of the stable area to ensure that rules are properly followed.
- Additional veterinary protocols for morning training: Veterinarians will be stationed at elevated observation points at the facility to oversee morning workouts and will have the ability – through communication with outriders – to remove horses from the racetrack and have them undergo a follow-up examination for soundness.
- Restricted use of the riding crop during morning workouts: Riders are prohibited from striking with the crop, crop use is limited to corrective safety measures during morning workouts. Del Mar will continue to work with the CHRB and the Jockey’s Guild on additional guidelines for riding crop use.
- Stakeholder Advisory Committee: DMTC has created a stakeholder advisory committee represented by trainers, veterinarians, jockeys, racing surfaces maintenance personnel and management that will meet regularly to discuss safety practices, operations and track surfaces.
In addition, the conditions of all horses stabled at Del Mar (approximately 1,850) will be thoroughly analyzed and reviewed by Del Mar’s racing department regularly with specific conditions (e.g., gaps in racing or workout activity) flagged for additional scrutiny.
“Significant thought, due diligence and stakeholder input went into the crafting of the reforms we are implementing this summer,” said DMTC’s Executive Vice President of Racing Tom Robbins. “All of us recognize our responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of the horses that race and train here. We are very appreciative of the cooperation from industry stakeholders including our owners and trainers.”
In 2018 and 2017, Del Mar made a series of changes and adjustments focused on the safety of horses and riders, all of which will be continued in 2019. They include:
- Reduction in Race Dates: DMTC reduced its summer racing season from eight weeks to seven, providing additional time to prepare the racing surfaces (after the San Diego County Fair) and to allow horses to acclimate to new surroundings. The reduction in days resulted in approximately $1 million less in net revenue.
- New director of racing surfaces maintenance: In 2017, DMTC hired Dennis Moore, widely considered the top track maintenance overseer in the industry. Moore immediately changed Del Mar’s banking and grading to conform with the other racing surfaces in Southern California, allowing an easy transition for horses competing in the Los Angeles-area. The cost of implementing these changes was approximately $1.5 million.
- Fewer horses on the grounds: DMTC reduced the number of horses allowed on the grounds by roughly 15%; from approximately 2,100 to 1,850. Fewer horses alleviated demand for access to the main track during busy morning training hours, creating a safer training environment.
- Adjusted morning workouts: DMTC allowed only “workers” (those going at race speed, not joggers or gallopers) on the track for the first 10 minutes following the first two morning breaks.
- Enhanced veterinary inspections: DMTC employed additional veterinarians to conduct pre-race inspections and monitor pre-race activities for starters, creating four distinct veterinary observation points for horses on race day.
- Racing Surfaces expert Dr. Mick Peterson: DMTC enlisted the services of Dr. Mick Peterson, director of University of Kentucky’s Equine Ag Programs and Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, widely recognized as the nation’s foremost track surfaces analyst.
The most recent Jockey Club Equine Injury Database ranked Del Mar as among the safest major racetracks in the country with a rate of 0.79 fatal injuries per 1,000 starts in 2018. The national average of tracks reporting was 1.68.
In addition, DMTC remains fully accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance for its upcoming season, having passed a complete review of equine and track safety protocols, injury reporting and prevention, medication testing, jockey health and safety best practices, wagering integrity and equine aftercare policies in October of 2017.
Del Mar will begin its 80th summer season on Wednesday, July 17 and race for 36 days through Labor Day Monday, September 2. Racing will be conducted five days a week from Wednesday through Sunday with a sixth day added on the closing week. First post daily is at 2 p.m. with the exceptions of Fridays when racing begins at 4 p.m.