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Del Mar News and Notes for July 10

•    Del Mar race track, where the turf meets the surf, opens its doors next Wednesday, July 17 for their 80th summer season. They will race five days a week for 7 weeks with the meet concluding on Labor Day, September 2nd. First post will be 2 PM each racing day with the exceptions of Fridays, where first post will be 4 PM. But this won’t be like any ordinary Del Mar meet. With all of the “noise” coming out of Santa Anita this past year, there are lots of changes and adjustments all pointed to the safety of the horse and the riders. Del Mar was one of the safest tracks in the country in 2018 with a rate of 0.79 fatalities per 1000 starters. The national average is 1.68. Still, they are doing much more. They will have a five man panel reviewing all entries prior to scratch time, the day of the races. That panel will consist of two CHRB Vets, William Farmer and Timothy Grande, two stewards, Darrell McHargue and Luis Jauregui, and then Rick Arthur, who is the CHRB Equine Medical Director. If any one of the panel feels any horse is unfit for racing, they will be declared at scratch time on race day. That is different than what was done at Santa Anita when they set up their five man panel for the final two weeks of their meet. They scratched the horse at entry time, 48 hours in advance. By delaying the scratch until race day, that makes it much more difficult in handicapping races in advance, like the prior evening. When a speed horse gets scratched on race day, it can greatly affect the outcome of the pace and the results of the race. Additional reforms include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, previously allowed within 24 hours of a race, now put out to 48 hours for both races and workouts. The therapeutic use of corticosteroids in joint treatment, which was allowed 3 days prior to a race, has been moved out to 14 days. Plus there will be more vets out in the morning observing workouts and removing what they believe to be unsound horses from the race track. Plus they have reduced the amount of horses stabled on the grounds from 2100 to 1850, thus alleviating too many horses on the track for morning workouts. Now with all of that, I just hope they have enough thoroughbreds left to fill a race card. Racing five days a week seems pretty ambitious to me, and I think they may find they have to have fewer races each day.

•    With the 30 fatalities over the six month Santa Anita meet, there has been talk once again of bringing back “synthetic” tracks to Del Mar and Santa Anita, which they tried more than a decade ago to no avail. The “Tapeta” surface they have at Golden Gate Fields works great, but that’s because the track sits right on the San Francisco bay and they have the ideal climate for that type of surface. It never gets too hot and it never gets too cold. That surface doesn’t work at either of the Southern California tracks. Santa Anita gets too hot while Del Mar gets too humid and too hot in the afternoons. Hollywood Park had the “cushion” synthetic track and it was ideal for that climate. They were close to the ocean but didn’t have the heat and humidity that Del Mar has. The Breeders Cup forced both Santa Anita and Del Mar back to dirt surfaces and then the synthetics weren’t working all that well either. The trainers all complained no matter what the surface was. I think Santa Anita learned their lesson with the winter rains in January/February and with all the stopgaps in place, they just need to race and let things sort themselves out. The dirt surfaces work best for both Del Mar and Santa Anita.

•     Racing certainly has its share of problems and one of them that could kill the sport in the long run hasn’t really been addressed, and that is all the late wagering done after the horses are already in the gate. Once that first horse enters the gate, all wagering windows should be locked with no further betting. But the “greed” of the race tracks simply will not allow that to happen as they want every last dollar and wagering is still taking place while the horses are running. That is just plain wrong!! Just this past week they ran the Suburban Handicap back at Belmont Park and the winner, Preservationist was in the gate, locked and loaded at 6/1. When he won the race and crossed the wire, he was 7/2. What kind of signal does that send to racing fans? And we’re not talking about a small amount of handle as this was a big day of racing at Belmont. It’s obvious there are places throughout the country that are getting “last looks”, and in the stock market that’s insider trading, and its illegal, just ask Martha Stewart. With no national czar to run the sport, each track makes their own rules. Only Oaklawn Park has stepped up to the plate and locked the windows once the first horse enters the gate, and I don’t think they have seen any drop off in handle. It can be done and should be done. Maybe Santa Anita will be the next to step up to the plate because if they don’t, they’re going to see a lot of handle drift away to Oaklawn. Racing fans want to know what kind of odds they’re getting when they lay their hard earned money on the line. The game is hard enough as it is.

•    We will have our selections for the Del Mar meet starting next Wednesday and prices are posted on our web site at “myturfdom.net”. We will also have our weekly Horses to Watch list along with the weekly News and Notes. We’ve had good success the last three years at Del Mar and look forward to another profitable meet for us and our customers.

By Rod Young (Turfdom)

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