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Horse racing jockey recovering, feeling 'great' after COVID-19 cluster cancels Del Mar races for the weekend

Del Mar’s racing officials have said that many of the races that had been scheduled for the upcoming weekend will be shifted to the following weekend.

DEL MAR, Calif. — The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has canceled its racing program this weekend, July 17-19. The cancellation follows 15 asymptomatic jockeys recently testing positive for COVID-19. Racing is slated to resume July 24. 

All of Del Mar’s jockeys and jockey room personnel were tested on Tuesday by San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency according to the club.

Del Mar officials ordered the testing of all the jockeys and jockeys’ room personnel after two riders, Flavien Prat and Victor Espinoza, tested positive for COVID-19.

"Assuming these individuals continue to show no symptoms, they will be isolated for a total of 10 days and should be able to resume their usual activities, including riding after that time,” said Dr. Eric McDonald.

“Racing will return on July 24,” said Joe Harper, Del Mar’s CEO. “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.”

"A common factor among all but one of the riders that tested positive is that they rode at the recently concluded Los Alamitos meet," said a statement in part from the club. 

Del Mar’s racing officials have said that many of the races that had been scheduled for the upcoming weekend will be shifted to the following weekend. That includes the Grade II, $150,000 San Diego Handicap and the Grade II $200,000 Eddie Read Stakes.

Del Mar officials say only jockeys based in California will be permitted to ride for the remainder of the meeting, following a similar policy announced this week by the New York Racing Association regarding jockeys at Saratoga Race Course.

The policy also means all local jockeys who leave the track to ride at other venues will not be allowed back at Del Mar for the remainder of the summer racing season.

A statement from Del Mar indicates all but one of the jockeys who tested positive rode at the recently concluded Los Alamitos meet.

Among those were Umberto Rispoli, who took to Twitter Wednesday to announce his positive result.

"I have tested positive for COVID-19. I'm feeling more than well, quarantined, and looking forward to come back stronger then before," Rispoli wrote. "Thank you everyone for the well wishes. Stay everyone safe."

Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, Scripps Health chief medical officer, said, "We can reasonably expect that there will be some additional positive tests," but said racing officials have worked with medical personnel to establish "practical health protocols for its essential personnel" in preparation for the summer meet.

"The key is to provide strategies and protocols for testing, quarantining, containment and management, all of which Del Mar is doing in cooperation with local public health experts and officials," Sharieff said.

The Del Mar season opened last Friday without fans in the stands due to the pandemic. Racing officials also instituted a number of health and safety measures aimed at preventing any potential spread of the virus, including daily on-site health screening for all personnel, including temperature checks, face covering and social distancing requirements, additional handwashing and sanitizer stations, and regular disinfecting of all common areas, the addling/paddock area and starting gate.

The meet is slated to conclude on Labor Day, Sept. 7.

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