Del Mar Cancels July 17-19 Racing After 15 More Jockeys Test Positive For COVID-19

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With caution its primary concern, Del Mar has preemptively canceled its next three days of racing, July 17-18-19, after 15 jockeys tested positive for COVID-19. All of Del Mar’s jockeys and jockey room personnel were tested on Tuesday by San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency staff as requested by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif.

“Assuming these individuals continue to show no symptoms, they will be isolated for a total of 10 days and should be able to resume their usual activities, including riding after that time,” said Dr. Eric McDonald, Medical Director, Epidemiology & Immunizations Services, County of San Diego.

“Racing will return on July 24,” said Joe Harper, Del Mar’s CEO. “Canceling this weekend’s races will give us additional time to monitor the situation and give the individuals who tested positive additional time to recover.”

On Tuesday, based on DMTC protocols, as well as direction from medical advisers and county public health officials, the testing was administered by county medical staff. Fifteen of the jockeys tested positive and all were believed to be asymptomatic. Contact tracing procedures are underway in conjunction with the San Diego Health & Human Services Agency. However, a common factor among all but one of the riders that tested positive is that they rode at the recently concluded Los Alamitos meet.

Del Mar officials ordered the testing of all the jockeys and jockeys’ room personnel after two riders, Flavien Prat and Victor Espinoza, tested positive for COVID-19.

“Even though our jockey colony did not exhibit symptoms when they arrived at Del Mar, we made the decision to test everyone as part of protocols we have developed in conjunction with local medical experts and the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency,” said Josh Rubinstein, Del Mar Thoroughbred President and COO. “We put these measures in place to help ensure the safety of all workers at Del Mar and our surrounding community.”

Because of the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPPA), Del Mar is not allowed to release the names of the affected riders.

In a further safety measure, only jockeys based in California will be permitted to ride at Del Mar for the remainder of the meeting. Jockeys from jurisdictions outside of California will not be allowed to ride at Del Mar. The measure to restrict the riding colony follows a similar announcement Tuesday by the New York Racing Association concerning jockeys at Saratoga Race Course. Under Del Mar’s new policy, until further notice, local jockeys who leave the track to ride at other venues will not be allowed to ride again at Del Mar for the remainder of the summer racing meeting.

Additionally, Del Mar officials are re-configuring and expanding the track’s jockeys’ quarters, including moving some of the functions that normally take place in the jockeys’ room to an adjacent area.

Del Mar has been providing health screening, monitoring and testing resources for barn area workers and essential personnel during its summer meet, which is being held for the first time in the track’s 81-year history without spectators. The meet began Friday July 10th and will conclude on Labor Day, September 7.

Del Mar’s health and safety protocols have been formulated with direct input from medical experts in the community.

“We have worked with Del Mar to apply practical health protocols for its essential personnel and we applaud the track’s continued vigilance to help provide a safe environment for its work force,” said Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, MD, Corporate Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at San Diego’s Scripps Health. “We can reasonably expect that there will be some additional positive tests. The key is to provide strategies and protocols for testing, quarantining, containment and management, all of which Del Mar is doing in cooperation with local public health experts and officials.”

Del Mar’s racing officials have said that many of the races that had been scheduled for the upcoming weekend will be shifted to the following weekend. That includes the Grade 2, $150,000 San Diego Handicap and the Grade 2 $200,000 Eddie Read Stakes.

The Thoroughbred Owners of California said they are in agreement with Del Mar’s measures. “TOC strongly supports the actions taken today by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in conjunction with the San Diego County Department of Health. The health of our riders is our top priority now.”

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Breeders’ Cup Host Sites Announced Through 2021

Breeders’ Cup officially announced Santa Anita Park, Keeneland, and Del Mar as the host sites for the next three editions of the World Championships.

In a press conference Aug. 17 at Santa Anita, it was announced the Arcadia, Calif., track would host the two-day event for a record-setting 10th time Nov. 1-2 in 2019. Keeneland, which hosted its first Breeders’ Cup in 2015, will welcome the 2020 edition Nov. 6-7. Del Mar—a first-time host in 2017—gets the event back Nov. 5-6 in 2021.

All three tracks planned press conferences Friday to announce Breeders’ Cup plans.

“Everybody knows how great Santa Anita is, so it’s never a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when’ for this place,” Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel said after the announcement Friday at Santa Anita. “Given the success of Del Mar and Keeneland, the same holds true for those.”

Churchill Downs is hosting the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Nov. 2-3, the ninth time the Louisville oval has put on the fall spectacle. With Friday’s announcement confirming a California-Kentucky rotation for the next three seasons, the two states will have combined to host 14 consecutive editions of the event.

“The Bluegrass served as the ideal backdrop for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup, and we could not be more excited to have Keeneland serve as the host of the 2020 edition of the World Championships,” said Keeneland president and CEO Bill Thomason. “Building on the success of the event for the industry and the community, we anticipate an even greater spectacle in 2020 and look forward to the Breeders’ Cup returning home once again.”

The last time the Breeders’ Cup was held at a track outside of Kentucky or California came in 2007, when Monmouth Park hosted the first year the event was expanded to a two-day format, and Fravel said Friday there is still interest from tracks outside of the two states.

“When I started in 2011, there was an option of two places, and there wasn’t anybody else in the mix to hold an event like this. One of the things we tried to do with Keeneland and Del Mar was to validate the different track model for holding the event, and that’s what happened,” Fravel said. “To me, we have greater and greater options going forward. We have inquiries from Laurel Park, who has made no secret of their interest, and our friends at Monmouth Park, now that they have sports wagering and some new dollars coming in … I think they’d like to be considered, and obviously we’ve talked about New York.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a static rotation. I hope to create an environment where people are wanting us to be there, asking us to be there, and doing what’s best for racing to encourage us to come.”

Tim Ritvo of The Stronach Group, which owns both Santa Anita and Laurel, said he would have liked for Laurel to be one of the three future sites but was hopeful for a 2022 bid for the Maryland track.

“We were hoping to get (Laurel) involved in this round, but we’re eager to make a strong bid for 2022,” Ritvo said. “We weren’t really ready yet, with the facility, but we had a great meeting yesterday about the build-out will look like, and the state is going to put together an advisory committee to give a really big push for 2022.”

Ritvo also said there will be $5 million in renovations at Santa Anita before the 2019 Breeders’ Cup, including new open-air suites in the grandstand and improvements to the upper levels of the clubhouse area. He said the upper-level grandstand suites would be like a “deck at your house, where you can sit and be casual.”

Regarding a potential Breeders’ Cup at a New York Racing Association track, Fravel said “capital improvements” would likely be required for a successful bid.

“I know they have a plan. It’s just the timing that’s unclear,” Fravel said. “I’m hopeful that within the next six months or so, we’ll have a clear picture of what their plan is. … There would have to be more concrete indications of what would happen and when. The experience, unfortunately, in New York is that best-laid plans get waylaid by factors outside of people’s control.”

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