Two unraced horses died and one rider suffered a mild injury in a freak head-on collision during morning training hours at Del Mar racetrack on Thursday, the day after the San Diego track opened its 80th summer meeting.
Three horses, two trained by Bob Baffert and one by John Sadler, were working in company from the starting gate and approaching the six-furlong pole when a horse from the barn of Carla Gaines wheeled or propped, lost its rider and began running the wrong way.
The loose horse, identified by track officials as the unraced 2-year-old colt Charge a Bunch, collided head-on with Baffert-trained Carson Valley, a 3-year-old unraced Distorted Humor gelding ridden by Assael Espinoza and working in the middle of the three horses. Both Charge a Bunch, a son of Will Take Charge bred in Kentucky by John Harris' Harris Farms, and Carson Valley, bred and owned by Mike Pegram, Paul Weitman and Karl Watson, died from the impact of the collision.
Assael Espinoza, nephew of Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza, was transported to a medical facility complaining of lower back pain, Baffert said. Daily Racing Form reported Geovanni Franco, the jockey thrown by Charge a Bunch, did not require medical attention.
— Brian Beach (@Cougzag) July 18, 2019
Brian Beach, agent for Assael Espinoza, told the San Diego Union the young jockey has a mild back sprain and should be able to ride over the weekend. “He's OK, he got lucky,” said Beach.
Victor Espinoza, on the Sadler horse and working nearest the rail, narrowly escaped the collision. Baffert said. Joe Talamo, aboard his other horse, reacted after seeing the loose horse and shifted his mount to the outside, also escaping injury.
“It happened so fast,” said Baffert. “I'm still in shock.”
Gaines issued the following statement on Twitter Thursday afternoon:
“This morning Gaines Racing had a very unfortunate and freak training accident at Del Mar, the likes of which I have not experienced in over 30 years training race horses. We are so thankful to report that Asa Espinoza and Geovanni Franco have no major injuries. Our whole barn is still in shock and grieving the loss of the horses, and my heart goes out to both of their owners, Bob and his team. We appreciate all those that continue to support us and our industry.”
The incident occurred during a “workout only” period at approximately 6:40 a.m.
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