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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Edited Del Mar Staff Release — Much of the talk on the backside at Del Mar Friday morning turned from horses to hurricanes. The ominous forecast hanging over the racetrack this weekend has some trainers on edge, while others scramble to find space for some of their horses.

Sunday’s races have bee canceled and the track is closed.

The backside is full of horses housed in outside pens. They have chain link fencing with plastic tarps as roofs. No match for a hurricane should one decide to move this far north as forecasters are projecting.

So much of the morning was spent tending to the horses and then finding a place to put them. Trainer John Sadler has a couple dozen in outside pens. He’s planning to move them to empty stalls on the backside or to Los Alamitos.

Trainer Carla Gaines also found temporary housing for her dozen or so horses, but George Papaprodromou has several horses he needs to shelter before Hurricane Hillary is scheduled to arrive Saturday night.

“I’m full, I don’t know what to do,” Papaprodromou says. He had calls out in hopes someone would come through with a place to shelter from the storm.

Dan Blacker has a dozen or more horses outside but they’re in a more sturdy structure, with actual walls not fencing.

“Those roofs, the water runs off of them pretty well,” Blacker says. “It’s the more outdoor pens you gotta worry about.”

The heaviest rains are expected Sunday into Monday with some forecasts predicting several inches of rain. But the models are conflicting. Some say the bulk of the rain will be inland, while others say the coastline is vulnerable.

“Three inches of rain and this will all be flooded,” Gaines says of her stable area including her office. That presents other issues like having to replace all the fresh straw in the stalls. At $17 a bale, it could be expensive.

The last time weather affected the racing at Del Mar was Thanksgiving of 2019 when, out of an abundance of caution, racing was canceled ahead of a projected storm. It was the first time in the 82-year-history of the track that Del Mar lost a day of racing to inclement weather.

Last September, and in November of 2018, heavy rain in the morning forced racing off of the turf. In 2015, an unexpected thunder storm, complete with thunder and lightning, caught everyone by surprise. Turf racing was canceled that day when patrons waded in from the flooded parking lot to get to the races

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