15 jockeys at California horse track test positive for coronavirus

The outbreak was detected at the Del Mar track in San Diego County. Last week, Triple Crown winner Victor Espinoza tested positive after racing in Orange County.
Image: Victor Espinoza, California Chrome
California Chrome jockey Victor Espinoza smiles as the horse crosses the finish line with a victory in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif., on Aug. 20, 2016.Lenny Ignelzi / AP file

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By Dennis Romero

SAN DIEGO — Fifteen jockeys at the Del Mar horse racing track in San Diego County tested positive for the coronavirus Wednesday, track and health officials said.

The outbreak prompted Del Mar Thoroughbred Club to cancel racing until July 24, it said in a statement. The club linked it to Triple Crown winner Victor Espinoza and Kentucky Derby winner Flavien Prat, both of whom tested positive after riding at Los Alamitos in Orange County.

Espinoza lives in San Diego County and has long been associated with Del Mar.

"A common factor among all but one of the riders that tested positive is that they rode at the recently concluded Los Alamitos meet," the club said. "Del Mar officials ordered the testing of all the jockeys and jockeys' room personnel after two riders, Flavien Prat and Victor Espinoza, tested positive for COVID-19."

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

NBC San Diego reported that a third jockey who had ridden at Los Alamitos during the Fourth of July weekend, Martin Garcia, also tested positive.

Dr. Eric McDonald, director of epidemiology and immunizations for San Diego County, confirmed at a news conference Wednesday afternoon that jockeys in Orange County appear to have spread the virus.

"Indeed, if you're familiar with the history, there were a pair of jockeys that were identified the previous weekend who had previously been in Orange County, along with three other jockeys that were in Orange County but then went to other venues," he said. "They were subsequently diagnosed with COVID."

The 15 Del Mar jockeys were not displaying symptoms and, pending recovery, were expected to be back on the track in about 10 days, track officials said.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club said contract tracing was underway to see whether more positive cases were connected to the 15 jockeys.

"We can reasonably expect that there will be some additional positive tests," Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, chief medical officer at San Diego's Scripps Health, said in a statement.

The meet started Friday and was scheduled through Sept. 7. The season at Del Mar is fan-free, with only essential personnel allowed on and near the track.

For its late-July reopening, Del Mar is limiting racing to California jockeys only.