DEL MAR, Calif. -- Amid the debate about the safety of thoroughbred racing in Southern California, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club could point to one fact: It had not suffered a single racing fatality in 2019.
That changed Sunday afternoon when in the third race on the turf course, a 3-year-old gelding named Ghost Street suffered a front leg injury and was vanned off the track. Veterinarians determined he had to be euthanized.
Three races later, 3-year-old colt Prayer Warrior was pulled up on the far turn of the dirt track and appeared to have a serious front leg injury. He was vanned off and shortly after 3:30 p.m. the daughter of trainer Jeff Metz tweeted that the injury was fatal.
The horse ambulance also was called out after the second race, when 5-year-old mare Princess Dorian was pulled up at the top of the stretch with an apparent front leg injury. Lead track veterinarian Dr. Dana Stead examined the horse, a leg splint was applied, and DMTC announced that Princess Dorian was being transported to the equine hospital at San Luis Rey Downs in Bonsall.
Before the injury to Prayer Warrior, DMTC issued a statement, which read, in part: "We are deeply sorry for Ghost Street, his owner, Aaron Sones, his trainer, Patrick Gallagher, and all of those who worked with him."
The racing deaths were the first at Del Mar since the 2018 fall meet. In the 2019 summer meet, four horses died, all in training.
Del Mar was the safest major track in America last year, according to Jockey Club Equine Injury Database, but it has run its most recent meets under intense scrutiny following 37 horse deaths at Santa Anita since late December.
Thirty horses died at Santa Anita's winter-spring meet, and seven perished in the recent fall meet. The sport suffered a high-profile death eight days ago at Santa Anita, when Mongolian Groom broke down in the nationally televised Breeders' Cup Classic.
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