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Filly suffers fatal breakdown in training at Del Mar

Del Mar
Riders and horses leave the gate on closing day at Del Mar in 2017.
(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A horse suffered a catastrophic injury Monday morning in training at Del Mar and had to be euthanized.

Trainer Jim Cassidy said the unraced 3-year-old filly, Bri Bri, suffered a broken pelvis after a four-furlong workout out of the starting gate under exercise rider Abel Hernandez (who was not injured). Bri Bri was prepping for an upcoming race at Del Mar, Cassidy said.

The death is the fourth since the start of the summer meet at Del Mar on July 17 and all have been in training. The first two came July 18 when horses collided and the third was a breakdown July 29 on the main dirt track. There have been no deaths in 171 races.

Del Mar is the first major Southern California race meeting since 30 horses died during the winter/spring meet at Santa Anita. Cassidy, who at the time was president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers (his term recently expired), trained one of the 30; that horse also died of a broken pelvis, he said.

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After the 23rd death at Santa Anita, as criticism of the track and sport increased, Cassidy told the Los Angeles Times: “It has reached a tipping point. This is Santa Anita. It’s not like the Chattanooga Blue Devils; this is the New York Yankees or the L.A. Dodgers. Things happen here and they are going to get reported on. Social media has gone crazy. Most of the people talking about (these problems) don’t understand the sport or how much we care about the horses. But they enrage other people.”

Santa Anita and Del Mar both took measures to improve oversight and safety after the spate of fatalities. At Del Mar, the steps were added to those it instituted two years ago following the 2016 summer and fall racing seasons in which a total of 23 horses died in racing or training.

In the last two years, Del Mar’s horse deaths dropped to eight in 2017 (five in summer, three in fall) and seven in ’18 (six in summer, one in fall). In a 2018 report from the Jockey Club Equine Injury Database, Del Mar ranked best in safety among nearly two dozen self-reporting tracks, with a rate of 0.79 fatal injuries per 1,000 starts — or less than half the national average for deaths (1.68). The database includes only horses who died during racing, meaning Del Mar’s rate this summer remains at 0.0.

Updates:
1:32 PM, Aug. 12, 2019: This article was updated to indicate Bri Bri’s workout was four furlongs, not three.

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