Deaths and injuries to horses on Del Mar’s new turf course has led the track north of San Diego to reduce racing on the surface by about one-third for the rest of the summer meet that ends Sept. 3.
Nine horse have died since the summer meet began July 16. Four deaths occurred as part of racing on the turf course, one happened on the synthetic surface while racing, two came on synthetic during training hours and two were the result of heart attacks, according to a track spokesman.
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Other immediate changes announced Friday include no more sprint races on the turf, no races for lower-level claiming horses on the surface and enhanced pre-race inspections of all horses.
All races at Del Mar will be run on the synthetic main track through Aug. 8. Turf racing will resume the following day.
Track officials say they hope a weeklong break from turf racing will allow for more aggressive maintenance. Del Mar has retained a noted expert on turf as a consultant.
Track crews will further aerate the turf and add extra water in an attempt to soften the course. The inner rail will be moved out to 24 feet, giving horses a fresher surface to run on. Earlier in the meet, the rail had been set at zero, six and 18 feet.
The turf course was expanded and installed last winter to replace the previous one that was over 50 years old.
Joe Harper, Del Mar Turf Club’s president and CEO, said jockeys and trainers have supported the turf course as a safe one.
The latest horse injury occurred Thursday, when a 4-year-old filly named Serious sustained left front leg injuries.