Del Mar cancels racing after 15 jockey COVID-19 positives

Del Mar cancels racing after 15 jockey COVID-19 positives
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

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.

"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 II, $150,000 San Diego Handicap and the Grade II $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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