By Steve Anderson, for Daily Racing Form — Del Mar will have opening day, Take 2, on Friday.
After racing for three days, from July 10-12, to start the summer meeting, Del Mar halted racing for July 17-19 after 15 jockeys tested positive for the coronavirus on July 14. Track officials said they were asymptomatic.
When racing resumes Friday at 2 p.m. Pacific, those riders will be back in action even though they will not have been required to undergo another coronavirus test, according to track president Josh Rubinstein.
The riders, who were instructed to self-quarantine after the positive tests were known, will undergo “individual evaluations in addition to our daily temperature tests and health screening” by a track physician, Rubinstein said.
“The feedback is they’re feeling great, and they’ve been isolating,” Rubinstein said Tuesday.
Rubinstein said the track is following the direction of San Diego County health officials and executives with medical advisers Scripps Health in allowing the jockeys to resume riding without tests.
“The guidance from the county is you can return to work in 10 days,” he said. “We’re relying on county medical guidance, our medical advisers” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The presence of those jockeys are a vital element to successful business, Rubinstein said. The track would have had difficulty attracting a sufficient number of riders for the July 17-19 programs with many tracks ordering jockeys to remain at a single venue this summer to avoid a potential spread of coronavirus.
“We did that voluntarily,” Rubinstein said. “We weren’t told we needed to suspend racing. It would have been a challenge to put on a quality program. Our players and horsemen are used to a top-end jockey colony.”
The riders will return to a larger jockeys’ room. To provide sufficient spacing, the track has converted a portion of the lower-level of the grandstand into 10-foot-by-10-foot spaces for the riders to be based between races.
Del Mar is operating without ontrack spectators this summer because of the coronavirus outbreak. Rubinstein said the track is hopeful to gain permission to allow a few horse owners to attend in coming weeks.
“We’re doing everything we can to get them on-site,” he said.
Friday’s program is the start of a four-day racing week through Monday. The track added the Monday program after the cancellations earlier this month. Additional weekday programs could be added in August, Rubinstein said.
During the recent period without live racing, Del Mar gained approximately $600,000 in revenue for purses on bets placed on other tracks by Southern California bettors from account-wagering sources, Rubinstein said.
For years Del Mar ran six days a week – from Wednesdays through Mondays. Since 2009, there have been five days of racing a week – Wednesdays through Sundays. The current meeting is largely being conducted on a Friday-through-Sunday basis through Monday, Sept. 7.
Friday’s 11-race program will have a maximum of 99 runners before scratches, while Saturday’s 11-race program will have a maximum of 98.
“It’s great to see the cards fill as well as they have,” Rubinstein said. “We’re definitely going to add races and potentially days. We’d like to see how Monday does.”