Del Mar Focuses on Horse Safety as Summer Race Meet Approaches

POSTED ON  |  11-07-2019

Del Mar Racing Track
The operators of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (DMTC), in Southern California, have announced a series of initiatives to enhance safety protocols and procedures as the track prepares to begin its 80th season of racing on July 17. These initiatives build on effective safety and welfare measures track operators introduced over the last several seasons of racing and which led to Del Mar being recognized as one the safest racetracks in the U.S. in 2018, according to data from 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 that will provide additional review of horses’ medical, training, and racing history. The panel will recommend to the stewards that any horse it deems unfit for competition be declared from racing. Panel members will include:
    • California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) Equine Medical Director Rick Arthur, DVM;
    • Two CHRB veterinarians: William Farmer, DVM, and Timothy Grande, DVM;
    • CHRB Chief Steward Darrel McHargue; and
    • CHRB Safety Steward Luis Jauregui.
  • Medication reform: Del Mar is adopting additional reforms modeled after the International Federation Horseracing Association requirements. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs, such as phenylbutazone and flunixin), 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.
  • Increased 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 CHRB investigative staff, 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 soundness examination.
  • Prohibit the use of the riding crop during morning workouts: Exercise riders and jockeys will be prohibited from using a riding crop to encourage their horses during morning workouts. Del Mar will continue to work with the CHRB and the Jockey’s Guild on additional crop use guidelines.
  • Stakeholder Advisory Committee: The 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.

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