The 2019 race meet at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club started last week under inordinate public scrutiny owing to the recent rash of horse fatalities at Santa Anita in Los Angeles. In 2016, Del Mar also attracted unusual media attention over the 17 horses that died during the meet. Last year, Del Mar experienced six horse fatalities and had five in 2017. Much better by comparison to 2016, but still an unacceptable number of fatalities.

According to an article by Chris Jennewein in the Times of San Diego, Del Mar took remedial action once the 2016 season was over:

“…Del Mar remade its dirt track in both banking and composition with the help of former track superintendent and consultant Dennis Moore. Del Mar also found ways to test the track’s surface using impact-gauging technology designed by Michael Peterson, a professor at the University of Maine and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory.

Along the dirt track’s backstretch, Del Mar installed a radiology and ultrasound facility for immediate testing of possible injuries. In addition, Del Mar instituted four separate veterinarian inspections on the day of a race for each horse, ensuring that they are in peak racing condition.”

Now, for the 2019 meet, the California Horse Racing Board has reportedly retained the services of five veterinarians and experts in horse safety to evaluate every entry at Del Mar with the authority to scratch a horse they believe is at-risk and should not run. Del Mar has also instituted the most demanding international standards on therapeutic medications, increased random medication testing, and added security staff in the stable areas. Lastly, more veterinarians have been retained to supervise morning training.

Conceptually, Del Mar deserves high marks for its preventive measures. At the end of the 2019 meet, the number of horse fatalities will provide empirical evidence of the efficacy of the processes.

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