Two horses die in Del Mar training accidents

 Horses come into the finish for the first race of the 2021 season at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Friday.
Horses come into the finish for the first race of the 2021 season on opening day at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club on Friday, July 16, 2021.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

For the past three years, Del Mar has been ranked the safest major racetrack in the nation according to numbers compiled by the Equine Injury Database.

But in the span of an hour Sunday morning, July 18, Del Mar lost two horses during workouts, according to track officials.

A 3-year-old filly named Needless to Say succumbed to an apparent heart attack around 7 a.m., dropping to the ground on the backstretch. She had raced twice last year, winning a maiden race at Del Mar and running out of the money in a stakes race at Santa Anita.

Fifty minutes later, an unraced 2-year-old named Arson was euthanized after suffering a right rear leg fracture while working with jockey Geovanni Franco aboard. Franco was taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla as a precaution but returned to the track later in the morning. The colt only had one previous registered workout at Santa Anita.

Track veterinarian Dr. Mike Pirrone was on the scene of both incidents.

Last summer, Del Mar suffered four fatalities, all during the summer meeting. Of the four, only one was during a race. Two happened during training and one during a stall accident.

Later in the day, Contagion was eased by jockey Juan Hernandez entering the far turn a second time in the 1½-mile Cougar II Stakes and was vanned off the track. However, after being X-rayed, the Peter Miller-trained Contagion reportedly walked to his barn.

“Everybody here was devastated by the news this morning,” said Josh Rubinstein, the president and chief operating officer of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. “We love our horses. Safety is absolutely our top priority.”

On the track, jockey Flavien Prat returned to Del Mar after being disqualified from winning the Haskell Stakes aboard Hot Rod Charlie on Saturday, July 17, at Monmouth Park to ride two Del Mar favorites to stakes wins.

He won the Grade III Cougar II aboard the Richard Mandella-trained Tizamagician ($2.60) on the main track. Earlier, he rode Neptune’s Storm ($4.60) to a wire-to-wire win in the $80,000 Wickerr Stakes at a mile on the turf course.

Prat set a Del Mar summer meeting record with 15 stakes wins last year en route to a 50-win meeting — giving him at least a share of four riding titles in five years.

“It’s always good to win a race for Mr. Mandella,” said Prat after his marathon win aboard Tizamagician. “That’s special. He was the man who brought me over here (from France).”

Tizamagician led the final quarter-mile and finished 2¼ lengths ahead of Cupid’s Claws.

“He likes to run all day,” Mandella said of Tizamagician. “I think Prat had trouble pulling him up after all that. He really likes the long distances. There’s a really nice marathon during the Breeders’ Cup (on the undercard). That’s really what we’re looking for.”


Sunday’s handle was $19.245 million, making the opening three-day total $80.5 million, which is a 17 percent increase from the first three days of last year. The average field size was 9.2 horses per race and 23 different trainers had at least one win during the first 32 races. “It was an incredible start to the season,” said Rubinstein.

Preakness winner Rombauer will get a 60-day freshening, trainer Michael McCarthy told the Daily Racing Form. The plan is for the colt to resume training this fall and race as a 4-year-old.

Center is a freelance writer.