Del Mar president: Jockey’s mid-race removal from track a ‘split-second decision’

Abel Cedillo, shown after winning a 2019 race
Abel Cedillo, shown after winning a 2019 race, will miss the next four to six weeks after suffering a neck injury on Sunday at Del Mar.
(John Gibbins/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Jockey Abel Cedillo suffered a broken bone in his neck following single-horse spill on Sunday, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks


The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is reviewing protocols after jockey Abel Cedillo complained earlier this week that crews should not have removed him from the middle of the racing surface after a one-horse spill in Sunday’s fourth race.

Later that night, it was determined that Cedillo had suffered a fractured bone in his neck. Although surgery will not be required, Cedillo is expected to miss four to six weeks.

Earlier this week, Cedillo told The Daily Racing Form that removing him quickly from the track while the race was continuing was “a mistake.”

“They shouldn’t have touched me,” Cedillo continued. “They should have stopped the race.”

Stopping the race was indeed an option the stewards were considering when members of the gate crew carried the jockey around 10 yards from the dirt surface to the flat surface on the fringe of the winner’s circle off the track. There, Cedillo was fitted with a neck brace, immobilized, placed on a backboard and removed by ambulance to Scripps Memorial Hospital.

The stewards were set to stop the race when Cedillo was carried off the track.

“Obviously this was an emergency situation which required swift, immediate action and decision-making,” Del Mar president and chief operating officer Josh Rubinstein said Wednesday. “It was a very difficult set of circumstances. The decision made (to remove Cedillo from the track) was made with the consent of the paramedic on the scene.”

Only stewards can stop a race. That decision is communicated to the jockeys through a network of sirens and warning lights. Rubinstein said the stewards were close to making that decision.

“The first option is always to get rider off the track,” said Rubinstein. “Under the best of circumstances, stopping a race can be extremely challenging. The horses are traveling at speeds of up to 40 mph. Outriders have to position themselves in front of the field.

“It’s a split-second decision.”

Cedillo did not respond to efforts by the San Diego Union-Tribune to reach him.

“Fortunately, Abel is home from the hospital and the prognosis is very positive,” said Rubinstein. “We’re looking forward to Cedillo riding with us again before the end of the summer meeting.”