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8 horses die at Del Mar racetrack since Opening Day

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Eight horses have died at Del Mar racetrack since Opening Day on July 15, and now track officials say veterinarians and trainers are taking extra precautions to make sure horses are ready to race.

Four horses died during races, two on the main dirt track and two on the turf, and four more died while training.

CEO of Del Mar Races Joe Harper says his team is scrambling to find out what is causing the deaths.

“When we get a cluster of them like this, we worry,” Harper said. “Because it might be something we aren’t doing right, or we can modify. So, the first thing we do is go look at the racing surfaces.”

Two years ago, after a rash of similar deaths, the track was aerated to slow down the horses, which seemed to curtail the problem. But this year, the issue seems to be something else.

“So far, everyone we talked to said everything is fine. Even the trainers and jockeys we talked to said the track is good,” Harper said.

After a long deliberation with experts, Harper said, a single reason for the deaths is still elusive.

Animal activists are not satisfied with precautions Del Mar is taking.

“It’s not a sport, it’s not entertainment. It’s severe animal abuse,” animal activist Ellen Ericksen said. “Our next step is to get the track shut right now, immediately, before more horses die.”

Activists say they will be protesting outside the track on Saturday.