Del Mar had its third training fatality on Monday, July 29, when Bowl of Soul, trained by Bob Baffert, broke down with an injury to her right hind fetlock, which is similar to an ankle. The 3-year-old filly was euthanized according to Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB).
Del Mar, which was the safest of major tracks last year, had an accident during morning workouts on July 17, the second day of racing. Charge a Bunch, an unraced 2-year-old trained by Carla Gaines, threw his rider and ran into the path of a workout run by Carson Valley, a 3-year-old trained by Baffert. Both horses died instantly with broken necks.
There have been no fatalities in 82 races over 10 days of the meeting, which resumes on Wednesday, July 31, and Bowl of Soul was the first to suffer a fatal leg injury in racing or training.
Through the first 16 days of training from July 13 through July 28, Del Mar reported 1,524 timed workouts on its dirt and grass courses.
The latest fatality was not announced by Del Mar, but confirmed by the track and CHRB after an inquiry by the Los Angeles Times was made on Tuesday, July 30. It has been the practice of Del Mar in the past to not announce horse deaths that occur in training or in the backstretch area. All tracks in the state are required to report deaths to the CHRB.
“We are aware of the unfortunate situation, but we will continue to make safety our first priority in the race meeting,” said Mac McBride, DMTC’s director of media relations.
Baffert said Bowl of Soul was working well and heading into a turn when she attempted to switch leads — the move from switching the use of one front foot to the other. She suffered a “rare twist of the hind ankle,” the trainer said.
“You just can’t predict these things happening,” Baffert said. “You work so hard to keep them healthy. It’s so tough on everybody.”
Joe Talamo, Bowl of Soul’s regular jockey, was aboard when she suffered the injury.
“That was so sad,” Talamo said. “She was working along fine and felt great the whole way around the track. Out of nowhere I felt her leg and I pulled her up as quick as I could and just held her in place so she wouldn’t move.”
Baffert said initially he hoped she could have been saved but the veterinarians said nothing could be done.
“We would have done whatever it took to save her,” Baffert said.
A lot was expected from Bowl of Soul because she was a $400,000 purchase for Spendthrift Farm at the 2-year-old in training sale at Ocala, Fla., in April of last year. She won her first race at Santa Anita on May 27 and then finished second in an allowance on June 23, the final day of the Santa Anita meeting.
“I never like to say anything because I never had any issues at Santa Anita,” Baffert said. “I get down here and I had that head-on collision. … It’s been really tough. I just doesn’t get any easier. She was a really sweet filly. It’s been pretty tough around the house.”
Baffert said he was planning on running Bowl of Soul this weekend.
— Union-Tribune staff writer Tod Leonard contributed to this report.
— John Cherwa is a freelance writer for The Los Angeles Times