Horse races planned for this weekend at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club were canceled and rescheduled for next week in the wake of a series of positive tests among jockeys slated to ride.
While officials expect to resume racing on July 24, all the races for this weekend's cards on Friday, Saturday and Sunday have been called off.
Fifteen jockeys have come down with the virus, track officials said in a news release issued Wednesday afternoon.
“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,” Del Mar Thoroughbred President and COO Josh Rubinstein said in a news release issued Wednesday. “We put these measures in place to help ensure the safety of all workers at Del Mar and our surrounding community.”
Jockey Umberto Rispoli, who won three races on opening day at Del Mar and was scheduled to return to Del Mar this weekend, tweeted on Wednesday that he was asymptomatic: "I have tested positive for COVID-19. I’m feeling more than well, quarantined and looking forward to come back stronger than before…. Thank you everyone for the well-wishes."
Flavien Prat tested positive for COVID-19 Sunday following a trip to Kentucky for a riding assignment and planned on quarantining at his home for at least 10 days, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club officials confirmed earlier this week.
Prat was tested at Scripps Clinic in La Jolla and received a report of a positive test approximately 90 minutes later. He had been named to ride eight horses at Del Mar Sunday but was removed from all those mounts.
Jockey Victor Espinoza tested positive for COVID-19 last Friday. He is also isolating at home. He was scheduled to ride on Del Mar's opening day but was removed from his mounts.
Prat was among the thoroughbred jockeys to have ridden at Los Alamitos Race Course on July 4 to have tested positive for the coronavirus, following Luis Saez, Martin Garcia and Espinoza.
Eduard Kennis Rojas Fernandez, a quarter-horse jockey who rides at Los Alamitos, has also tested positive. He rode three horses July 3 and two July 5 at Los Alamitos' nighttime quarter-horse meeting, according to the Los Angeles Times. There was no nighttime racing July 4.
Prat rode the 65-1 shot Country House to the victory in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, a race best remembered for the disqualification of Maximum Security for veering into the path of another horse. Saez was racing Maximum Security.
Prat was the riding champion at Del Mar's 2017 and 2019 summer meets and 2017 fall meet, and shared the 2016 summer meet title with Rafael Bejarano.
"It is encouraging that ... our protocols worked,'' Del Mar CEO Joe Harper said earlier this week. "We will continue to be vigilant to ensure the safety of the people who work here and live in our community."
Del Mar requires all riders traveling from other jurisdictions to be tested prior to being able to ride at the track.
“I think it had to be scary for the riders," Harper added. "These guys, they’re fearless on the track, but when it comes to this pandemic, we're all in the same boat: We’re scared to death of it.”
Efforts are under way to attempt to minimize the likelihood of a reoccurrence.
"In a further safety measure, only jockeys based in California will be permitted to ride at Del Mar for the remainder of the meeting," the news release stated. "Jockeys from jurisdictions outside of California will not be allowed to ride at Del Mar."
In addition, Del Mar officials said they would be expanding and reconfiguring the jockeys' quarters in an effort to stem any future contact issues.