Five days before its summer meet opens, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club remained mostly silent on the access to racing for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. There was, however, an indication of which way the track officials are leaning.
As the first group of horses began to settle into their stalls Friday, DMTC CEO Joe Harper said that Dan Ward Jr., an assistant to Hollendorfer in California since 2008, has acquired a trainer’s license and applied for stall space at Del Mar for the meet that begins Wednesday. Del Mar officials said Ward has not previously had his own stalls.
Ward’s efforts probably wouldn’t have been made if the 73-year-old Hollendorfer expected to be able to train his horses at Del Mar. Hollendorfer’s lawyer, Drew Couto, said this week he was “pessimistic” about the trainer’s chances for working at Del Mar, and characterized the situation as a “PR problem” for the track. Del Mar officials have declined to make any comment.
If Ward takes over some of Hollendorfer’s horses, it would be a situation similar to what happened when the New York Racing Assn. — reversing course — banned Hollendorfer from training in the state after he was asked to vacate the recent Santa Anita meet, during which four of his horses were among 30 that died. In New York, another of the trainer’s assistants, Don Chatlos Jr., took over a number of horses to race there.
Hollendorfer has been a fixture at Del Mar for decades. Last summer, he sent 93 starters to the gate and had 17 winners. His total of 507 combined starters over the last four years in the summer and fall meets is fifth-most among trainers at Del Mar.