Most days, Pascal Martinez goes unnoticed while doing his job at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
But last Sunday, when 2 1/2 inches of rain fell on the seaside race track in a 12-hour period, Martinez was a key figure.
Martinez is the plumber foreman at the track. And his job was to keep the three pumps running that pumped way out of the stable area on the outside of Del Mar’s backstretch—specifically the two pumps in the lowest laying areas.
“Things went better than expected,” said Ken West, Del Mar’s plant director. “The first quarter of an inch of rain has affected us more. I think we have got a lot of help from nature. And the staff worked some long hours looking through everything.
“Hillary didn’t hit us as hard as expected. But we were ready.”
None of Del Mar’s roughly 2,000 horses were outside when the storm hit this summer. The racing office is found inside the stalls, with most of the stock usually kept in the outside stalls. And about 80 horses were shipped to indoor facilities at San Luis Rey Downs and Los Alamitos.
“We began the process of finding safe harbor for each horse on Thursday,” said Del Mar’s racing secretary David Jerkens.
Stable superintendent Jackie Lynn and aides Benjamin Harris and Heather Correa began reaching out to trainers to identify empty stalls and horses that needed to be moved in.
“There was great co-operation between the horsemen,” said Jerkens. “And the trainers and staff were here throughout the storm taking care of their horses.”
Meanwhile, Martinez’s team dug trenches leading to drains in low-lying areas and turned on pumps. When the first notice of Hillary arrived, Del Mar connected the pipes leading from the stable area to the infield lake and auxiliary training track.
Del Mar had a new stormwater management system installed several years ago, but this was its first major test during the summer meeting. Stagnant field water pumped into the infield lake is treated at an on-site plant.
“We had drained the water from Infield Lake in anticipation of the storm,” West said. “Everything went better than expected. The pump and the new drainage system worked. When the winds picked up, all the horses were safe…and the winds helped dry out the area.”
At the end of racing last Saturday, Dennis Moore’s track maintenance team spent three hours sealing the track using rollers. “You want as much water to run off the surface and not seep in as much as possible,” Moore said.
At 1 a.m. Tuesday, they began breaking seals on both the main and turf courses to prepare them for the 4:30 a.m. opening. The track was restricted to jogging on Tuesday, but became fully operational on Wednesday.
The first race postponed from Sunday will be run on Friday – the $150,000 Solana Beach Stakes for California-born older fillies and mares over one mile on turf. The field has increased from six to eight in the last five days.
The morning-line favorite is Eddie’s New Dream (Mario Gutierrez), who finished second to Warren’s Candy Girl in the 2022 Solana Beach Stakes. The other favorite in the field is Rose Maddox (Juan Hernandez), who finished second to Eddie’s New Dream in the $100,000 Frans Valentin at Santa Anita on May 23. Another standout in the field is Ultimate High (Hector Berrios), coming off a win at Del Mar on July 29 after three consecutive runner-up finishes in allowance races.
, Anthony Fresu won back-to-back Doug O’Neill-trained horses – i wish it could be in fifth ($4.40) and Giovinazzo In sixth ($27.00) – capping the day off with three wins to move into a tie for third place in the jockey standings. O’Neal finished third peter miller Trainer standing.