By Nicholas Godfrey
USA: Del Mar has taken the shock decision to cancel racing this weekend after an alarming spate of positive tests for coronavirus in the jockeys’ room.
According to Del Mar officials, as many as 15 positive tests have been returned after the track tested all riders and jockeys’ room employees on Tuesday.
Dual Italian champion Umberto Rispoli on Wednesday became the latest southern Californian-based jockey to reveal that he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Rispoli joins other high-profile names such as Flavien Prat, three-time leading rider at Del Mar, and American Pharoah’s jockey Victor Espinoza in having tested positive within the last week.
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Other riders such as Luis Saez, Martin Garcia and Eduard Rojas Fernandez have also tested positive. All six of them rode at Los Alamitos during the weekend of the Los Alamitos Derby meeting on July 4-5. Another rider, Florent Geroux, has also tested positive; he did not ride at Los Alamitos, but rode with Saez at Indiana Grand a few days later.
Del Mar’s summer meet started on a behind-closed-doors basis last Friday [July 10] and is scheduled to continue every Friday to Sunday until September 7.
Jockeys scheduled to ride at Del Mar this weekend were tested on Tuesday, after which the decision to cancel racing from Friday to Sunday [July 17-19] was made in conjunction with San Diego health officials.
“After a good number of jockeys tested positive out of the Los Alamitos meet we decided to test everyone in the room,” said Del Mar CEO Joe Harper, speaking to the Blood-Horse.
“We had 15 positive tests,” he went on. “We are doing what we think is right. We are listening to the doctors, not the politicians. We will be vigilant.”
With 57 winners to his name in 2020, Rispoli has won many admirers since his move to southern California from Hong Kong.
He revealed news of his positive test on Twitter, saying: “I have tested positive for COVID-19. I’m feeling more then well, quarantined, and looking forward to comeback stronger then before.”
Rispoli added that he is asymptomatic; everyone who has tested positive has to undergo a mandatory ten-day quarantine period.
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