The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is making changes to its new turf track after an unusually high number of horses were euthanized in the first 10 days of the season.
Since Opening Day, seven horses have been put down because of race-related injuries. Four of those incidents happened on the track’s new racing surface.
An eighth horse died after collapsing in a morning workout before Opening Day.
While they continue to have the "utmost confidence" in the turf course, track officials said they want to err on the side of caution by making adjustments.
“…everything possible is being done to ensure the track’s first priority, which is safety of horses and riders,” a DMTC statement read.
On Sunday, two turf races were moved to the main track.
The track also instructed its crews to start scheduled maintenance early, aerating and watering the new turf surface on Sunday in advance of Wednesday’s races.
Track officials say the inner rail will also be moved to 18 feet out of caution.
The multi-million dollar project to widen the green began in September. Fourteen horses can race on the new surface. The previous course allowed 10.
In Saturday’s fifth race, Little Swiss Echo appeared to break a leg near the finish line. Jockey Drayden Van Dyke, 19, fell off and was stepped on by two other horses.
In the ninth race, J Kat was pulled up on the far turn by jockey Corey Nakatani with severe injuries to his left foreleg.
On Friday, Longview Drive sustained major injuries to his left front leg and was euthanized. Jockey William Antongeorgi had pulled up the horse early in the race.
In the sixth race on the turf, Yes She's Unusual unseated jockey Brice Blanc on the far turn when she stumbled after sustaining a serious injury. The horse was euthanized.
Before horses race at DMTC, they are reviewed by veterinarians at four different times, according to track spokesperson Mac McBride.
The morning of a race, the groomer and trainer must pull the horse out in front of the barn. The horse must gallop cleanly in order for them to go forward.
In the afternoon, lip tattoos are checked at the receiving barn to make sure the correct horse is racing. Vets feel legs, etc. They will pull the horse if they see anything that doesn’t look right, McBride said.
Horses are looked over again at the paddock and during the warmup period out on the racetrack.
“If they see a horse doing anything funny, anything that is not a normal, fluid motion by the horse, the horse is withdrawn from the race,” McBride said.
Racing officials said they’ve consulted the Thoroughbred Owners of California, the California Thoroughbred Trainers, the Jockeys’ Guild and the California Horse Racing Board about the recent deaths.
“I think Del Mar is doing the right thing,” said Jay Privman with the Daily Racing Form. “They did not race on the grass, they realize something is going on and they’re trying to figure out what it is.”