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Horse Fatalities Push Back Del Mar Racetrack Season

The start of the summer racing season at the Del Mar Racetrack will be pushed back one week beginning next year in an effort to reduce the number of horse fatalities, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club announced Thursday.

The decision comes in the wake of the deaths of 16 horses during this year's meet, a total that prompted several animal rights advocates to attend a meeting of the California Horse Racing Board at the track.

Ten of the horses died after injuries suffered in morning workouts, with the remaining six during racing, according to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

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"In an effort to provide horses additional time to acclimate themselves to new surfaces and surroundings, beginning in '17 Del Mar will open its summer season one week later," said a statement from the club.

Mac McBride of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club told KPBS News in an email:

"We have added an extra veterinarian to our track staff and he takes part in the four pre-race veterinarian inspections that each racehorse goes through. We have also requested — and been granted for the next three years — a later starting date of approximately a week to our summer race meet. This will allow our staff, horsemen and horses additional time to ready and acclimatize to the track prior to the start of racing. Additionally, we have teamed up with The Jockey Club (racing’s oversight body) to provide funding for additional drug testing and insight programs in the state. ... Please know, that like the animal rights people, we make the safety of our horses (and riders) our number one priority. We’re on their side all the way when it comes to that."

Last week, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and the Jockey Club announced that they will provide additional funding to the Ken Maddy Laboratory at UC Davis to enhance the horse racing agency's medication testing program. The amount wasn't specified.