Breeders' Cup, Del Mar, Hollywood Park, Horse racing

Big changes coming to Del Mar

With the evolution of the Southern California racing calendar due to the loss of Hollywood Park, there will be big changes at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, it was announced today.

Change No. 1, will be a Thursday opening day this season (July 17) due to a late closing of the fair and the change in surface from Los Alamitos’ dirt to Del Mar’s Polytrack. The extra day will give horses another day of training over the synthetic surface. In the past, many fatalities have occurred when the circuit moved from Hollywood Park to Del Mar so track officials are trying to avoid that.

This will be the first time since 1999 the track has opened its summer season on a Thursday. The previous times were 1969 and 1956.

This year’s meet will end on Sept. 3, a Wednesday, but it will likely be the last Wednesday closing in the history of the track.

Del Mar announced its 2015 summer dates will be Wednesday, July 15, to Monday, Sept. 7 (Labor Day). The track gains an extra week of racing (41 days instead of 37 due to the calendar).

According to sources, the Labor Day closing will likely remain the norm, instead of having a dark day (Tuesday) and then closing with the traditional closing day on Wednesday, including the Grade I Del Mar Futurity for 2-year-olds.

Here’s hoping executive vice president/racing Tom Robbins makes the Futurity the last race on the card. Robbins has talked in the past about running stakes at the end of the program but has been overruled by the operations department. Maybe a new tradition can be started.

Some details on Del Mar’s new fall meet were released.

While first post in the summer will remain 2 p.m., except on Fridays (4 p.m.), in the fall the first race will be at noon, except on Thanksgiving (11 a.m.).

Del Mar’s first fall meet will be Nov. 7 to Nov. 30. The meet will be 15 days long with a Friday opening and traditional Sunday closing. Del Mar will race Thursday-Sunday the other weeks of its meet.

“Our fall race meeting starting this year will be totally separate from our summer session,” said Del Mar president and CEO Joe Harper in a press release. “They will be two different animals. We know our summer meet is a winner; we’ve proven it over and over again. And we expect our autumn run can be special, too, in its own way. With the backing of our horsemen and all our many racing fans in the San Diego area, we think we can put on a first-rate show here in the fall and help to keep racing in Southern California strong and successful.”

In 2015, Del Mar gains an extra week in the fall, opening on Oct. 28 in hopes of gaining the Breeders’ Cup although the chances of that happening are highly unlikely at this point. Churchill Downs seems to be the frontrunner in 2015 after Santa Anita has hosted the event several years in a row. Del Mar’s best chance might be in 2016.

Breeders’ Cup officials have been told Del Mar would have to run any 1¼ mile races on its new turf course would need to be contested at 1 3/8 mile due to the configuration. According to sources, BC officials don’t have a problem with that.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

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