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Del Mar Opens Season Friday Without Fans In the Stands

Florent Geroux rides Gun Runner to victory in the Classic horse race during t...

Photo by Denis Poroy / AP

Above: Florent Geroux rides Gun Runner to victory in the Classic horse race during the Breeders' Cup, Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Del Mar, Calif.

Del Mar began its 81st summer meet Friday with no fans in the stands for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic and safety for people and horses the leading theme.

Daily measures that will be in effect throughout the meet include:

  • admittance to the facility strictly limited to essential personnel;
  • daily on-site health screening for all personnel, including temperature checks;
  • all personnel will be required to wear face coverings;
  • jockeys and the starting gate crew will be required to wear additional personal protective equipment;
  • proper social distancing will be required;
  • additional handwashing and sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the Grandstand and stable area;
  • enhanced janitorial services including daily disinfectant of all common areas;
  • no congregation of people will be permitted in the saddling/paddock area; and
  • the saddling/paddock area and starting gate will be disinfected after each race.

The horse and rider safety initiatives amplify measures Del Mar introduced over the last several seasons of racing.

Del Mar will continue its Entry Review Panel of regulatory veterinarians who will oversee the entries of all horses and provide an additional review of each of their medical, training and racing history. The panel will recommend to the track's stewards that any horse it deems unfit for competition not be allowed to race.

Del Mar will further its adoption of reforms modeled after the International Federation Horseracing Association requirements. Rules surrounding nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories have been enhanced and extended and additional rules regarding other equine medications have been clarified and codified.

Random testing will continue for any horse at Del Mar, including ones readying for, or having just completed, morning workouts.

Just as they were last summer, veterinarians will be stationed at elevated observation points at the facility to oversee morning workouts and will have the ability -- through communication with outriders -- to remove horses from the racetrack and have them undergo a follow-up soundness examination.

Exercise riders and jockeys again will be prohibited from using a riding crop to encourage their horses during morning workouts.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club created a stakeholder advisory committee last summer represented by trainers, veterinarians, jockeys, racing surfaces maintenance personnel and management that met regularly to discuss safety practices, operations and track surfaces. The committee will also be in session during the 2020 meet.

"Safety and health will be our focus for the people involved with putting on this year's extraordinary race meet, but we'll also be continuing with our safety reforms for the wellbeing of our riders and horses," said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club CEO Joe Harper.

Del Mar will hold racing Fridays through Sundays for all but the final week of the meet when racing will be held Friday through Monday with the meet concluding, as is traditional, on Labor Day.

There will be 10 races each Friday and Sunday and 11 on Saturdays, except for July 11, when there will be 10. First post daily will be 2 p.m.

Horses expected to run in the meet include Maximum Security, the 2019 male 3-year-old Eclipse Award winner best remembered for being disqualified for interference after crossing the finish line first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, Honor A.P., the winner of last month's Santa Anita Derby, and McKinzie, the runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic.

Even with no fans in attendance, Del Mar will conduct the 26th Opening Day Hats Contest Friday. The contest is open to anyone forwarding pictures using the hashtag #DelMarHatsContest and tagging @DelMarRacing in the photo on Instagram or Twitter. The entry deadline is 6 p.m. The profile must be publicly accessible to be viewed and judged.

The grand prize winner will receive two VIP tickets to the 2021 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Del Mar and a $500 gift certificate from Christine A. Moore Millinery.

The second-place finisher will receive a $250 Studio Savvy Salon gift basket and a $250 gift certificate from Christine A. Moore Millinery. The third prize is a $250 gift certificate to Christine A. Moore Millinery and fourth- prize a $200 gift certificate to Studio Savvy Salon.

More than 20 local restaurants, hotels and a casino have signed on to be part of "Del Mar Live," offering many television screens to view the TVG telecasts of the races, Del Mar's signature drinks, the Del Margarita and Del Martini, and special sign-up betting propositions from TVG.

Larry Collmus, the voice of the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup, will be the announcer for the meet. Trevor Denman, the racetrack's caller for the past 36 years, told Del Mar officials that he and his wife Robin did not wish to travel away from their Minnesota farm because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Denman has told Del Mar officials he will return to the track for its fall season scheduled from Oct. 31-Nov. 29.

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