Del Mar cancels weekend races after 15 jockeys test positive for COVID-19

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DEL MAR, Calif. – The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has canceled the weekend’s slate of races after 15 jockeys tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Wednesday.

Jockeys and jockeys’ room personnel were tested Tuesday by San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency staff at the request of DMTC. The tests were ordered after two jockeys — Flavien Prat and Victor Espinoza — tested positive for COVID-19, according to a track news release.

The track just began its season Friday with no fans in the stands for the first time in its 81-year history due to the pandemic.

“Racing will return on July 24,” Del Mar’s CEO Joe Harper said in a news release. “Canceling this weekend’s races will give us additional time to monitor the situation and give the individuals who tested positive additional time to recover.”

Espinoza’s positive test was announced late last week and Prat’s came on Tuesday. Another rider, Umberto Rispoli, tweeted Wednesday that he also tested positive for COVID-19. Citing HIPAA, Del Mar said it would not release the names of the other affected riders. All are believed to be asymptomatic, officials said.

“I’m feeling more (than) well, quarantined, and looking forward to come back stronger than before,” Rispoli said. “Thank you everyone for the well wishes.”

According to track officials, all but one of the riders participated in the recent Los Alamitos meet.

Josh Rubinstein, Del Mar Thoroughbred’s president and COO, said officials conducted testing as a part of new protocols developed with medical experts and county health officials, even though jockeys did not show symptoms when they arrived this year.

“We put these measures in place to help ensure the safety of all workers at Del Mar and our surrounding community,” Rubinstein said.

This weekend’s races including the Grade II, $150,000 San Diego Handicap and the Grade II $200,000 Eddie Read Stakes are being moved to following weekend. However, track officials said only California-based jockeys will be able to ride at Del Mar through the remainder of its season.

If local jockeys leave the track to race at another venue, they also will not be allowed back at Del Mar for the remainder of the summer racing meeting, the news release shows.

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