Del Mar announces revised schedule for summer meeting in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Horses sprint from the gate at Del Mar on opening day last year. This year opening day will be July 10, without spectators.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Del Mar will cut back to three days a week but start its signature summer meeting eight days earlier on July 10. There will be no spectators.

The new schedule, first reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, will have about the same number of races as last year. The track will run 10 races on Friday and Sunday and 11 on Saturday. There will be a bonus day of racing on Labor Day. It takes the number of races from 297 to 291. The track was originally scheduled to race five days a week.

The track will implement a series of safety and health protocols but will not house jockeys on-site like Santa Anita is doing in its current race meeting. The jockeys will be tested for the coronavirus.

According to the Union-Tribune, the track is expected to lose $17 million from food and beverage, tickets, merchandise and parking. However, that will be mitigated by not having to pay as many employees. The daily staff will go from about 1,100 to less than 300.

Del Mar does hold out the hope that if circumstances change it will be prepared to allow spectators, even on a limited capacity.

Meanwhile, Santa Anita is ever so slightly loosening its policy in regards to owners. Trainers can make reservations for their owners to watch morning workouts. The reservation must be made through the racing office and will be limited to an unspecified number.

Owners and their guests will have their temperature taken and must wear a face covering. They will be seated at tables, appropriately spaced, in the clubhouse section of the grandstand. They will not have access to the grandstand apron or Clockers’ Corner in order to have no exposure to backstretch workers. Rigorous cleaning procedures will be in place.

— John Cherwa is a special contributor for the Los Angeles Times