DEL MAR, Calif. -- The 80th Opening Day is less than 48 hours away and preparations at the Del Mar Fairgrounds are in progress.
The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club said this year it has made a number of improvements to help keep the beloved horses and riders safe.
Opening Day kicks off Wednesday -- a day many have been anticipating.
“Oh boy, oh boy. Over the moon,” said Mac McBride of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. "Awful lot of people will be calling in sick to the office that day."
McBride said while a good time is in mind, safety is the top priority. He said after a hard racing season at Del Mar in 2016, when 16 horses died, changes started being made and even more have been made after 30 horses died during Santa Anita's racing season.
“The Santa Anita effect here, not only is it affecting us, not only is it affecting California -- that has rippled all across the country and race tracks all across the country are all of a sudden saying, whoa, we got to really do better here,” McBride said.
McBride said improvements that have been made at Del Mar, including track renovations, reducing race weekends from eight to seven, limiting the number of horses stabled to 1,850, adjusting horse workouts and closely monitoring what medication they are given and when.
McBride added that stable security is also being increased, as well as the number of veterinarians and checkups with their patients.
“The first race track in the country to do this, we’re going to have two veterinarians overseeing our morning workouts,” McBride said.
Those who work with the horses, like Assistant Trainer Leandro Mora, say the changes are more than welcome because of the love they have for the majestic creatures.
“If something happens to one of our own horses, regardless, we suffer more than anyone else,” Mora said.
The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club said improvements are not stopping there.
“We want to make this the safest racing meet in America,” McBride said.
The races start Wednesday at 2 p.m.