By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Leading California-based jockey Flavien Prat was missing from Sunday’s card at Del Mar after becoming the latest high-profile US rider to test positive for coronavirus.
Prat, 27, is a three-time leading rider at the popular southern Californian venue, where the annual summer meet began on Friday.
Prat partnered the official winner of last year’s Kentucky Derby in Country House. On May 17, he became the first jockey for 14 years to ride a six-timer at Santa Anita.
The Frenchman joins Victor Espinoza, the rider of Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, Luis Saez and Martin Garcia on the sidelines after positive tests linked to California, while Louisiana-based Gerard Melancon has also tested positive.
This spate of COVID-19 positives must surely raise questions about the efficacy of allowing jockeys to jet around the country to ride at different venues.
Prat, for example, tested positive after flying back from Kentucky, where he had six mounts on the lucrative Saturday card.
Del Mar officials confirmed that Prat was tested at Scripps Clinic in nearby La Jolla at noon on Sunday and received news of a positive test approximately 90 minutes later. Like Espinoza on Friday, he was immediately taken off his eight scheduled mounts and is now in quarantine at home for at least ten days.
“It is encouraging that in both cases our protocols worked,” said Del Mar CEO Joe Harper. “We will continue to be vigilant to ensure the safety of the people who work here and live in our community.”
Del Mar plans to test all jockeys and jockeys’ room personnel before its next scheduled card on Friday.
• Where the surf meets the turf: visit the Del Mar website