Del Mar, Horse racing

Will Del Mar cut purses after slow start?

The numbers are down, but officials at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club insist purse cuts won’t be forthcoming when the third condition book is released on Tuesday.

“Heck, no,” said Mike Ernst, Del Mar’s chief financial officer on Sunday.

Through Saturday, Del Mar was down 11.2% in overall handle, but it should be noted that was 13 days in 2014 vs. 14 days in 2013. However, it should also be noted Del Mar ran a number of extra races the first two weeks of the meet and was only down three total races.

Average daily handle was down 4.3% when comparing the last two years.

“We haven’t considered it,” said Ernst. “It’s only 13 days of a 36-day meet. We continue to monitor it and continue to talk to the TOC.”

Ernst said two rain days hurt. “The last time it rained here was in 1966 and 1982,” he said.

Also the much-maligned turf course has also hurt. With races taken off the grass, some handicappers don’t like betting the Polytrack.

“We are at expected levels,” said Ernst.

Del Mar is expecting improvement this week as the turf course is expected to re-open on Saturday for racing and a couple of Del Mar’s big bettors are expected in town plus the promotional schedule is back-loaded to the final four weeks of the meet.

Ernst and Tom Robbins, director of racing, were expected to meet Monday to discuss purses plus Del Mar will meet with the TOC on Monday.

Del Mar also has purse funds left over from the 2013 meet in the pot.

The new condition book will be released on-line at on Tuesday.

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Sunday’s top choice winners: 1 (Warren’s Cracker $19.20, fourth race)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 0

Sunday’s third choice winners: 1 (My Jealous $13.60, third; Skyway $6.20, eighth)

Sunday’s long show winners: 1 (Wrightwood $15, ninth)


Del Mar, Horse racing, Santa Anita

Del Mar: Casse coming from Woodbine

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club spent the last week talking to horsemen about coming to its annual summer meeting, looking to beef up a horse population that shrinks yearly. The efforts are working.

Woodbine trainer Mark Casse recently told Del Mar officials he will bring 30 to 40 horses this year for the first time. In Hot Springs, Ark., trainer Cody Autrey told Del Mar he will be back and hopefully earlier like during the the Los Alamitos meet.

Del Mar officials then moved on to Lexington, Ky., and the Keeneland meet to tell more horsemen about the third year of the “Ship N Win” program which gives horses a starting gate and purse bonus in their initial start of the meeting as long as their last start was out of state.

The big get is Casse, who started Delegation in last year’s Pacific Classic.

“He came close to coming last year,” said Tom Robbins, executive vice president/racing. “He was all set and then they had a virus outbreak and there was no movement into the United States. We’re excited. We have our fingers crossed.”

“That’s the plan,” said Casse on last week’s NTRA teleconference. “I’ve been in communications with Del Mar.  I’ve cleared it with my owners and the plan is currently to bring probably between 30 and 40 horses to Del Mar, and then probably stay there maybe for who knows how long; a long time.”

The key with Casse is that he has a lot of allowance horses, which will help increase the quality of Del Mar’s races.

“He liked what he saw last year, and he has California owners,” said Robbins, “but the key is he’s planning on staying beyond our meet and that’s good for the industry.”

Casse won nine races and $368,653 from 84 starters this winter at Gulfstream Park. In the first week of the Keeneland meet, he has a 27-5-3-5 record with earnings of $305,312 and during the first weekend of racing at Woodbine (in Toronto) Casse was 7-2-1-1, earning $86,193.

Another key to the Casse move is that Keeneland and Woodbine have Polytracks, a similar surface which will be making its swan song at the seaside oval this summer before being replaced by dirt next year.

Jockey Luis Contreras rides many of Casse’s top horses at Woodbine and rode Delegation (poorly, I might say) in last year’s Pacific Classic, but don’t expect him to come to Del Mar as the barn rider.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Casse.  “You know, Luis does really well at Woodbine.  It would be kind of crazy for him to come out there.  I don’t know who.  Somebody may come with me.  I mean there’s plenty of good riders in California.  I don’t think I really have to bring anybody.  You know, (Hall of Fame jockey) Mike Smith and we go back probably 25 or 30 years, and so there are a lot of good riders.  We’ll just have to wait and see.

“So far we’ve been very lucky recently at Keeneland with Stewart Elliott, and, you know, we’ll just have to see how things are going. I like the way he rides, and him and I have a good relationship, but we may or may not bring somebody.  That just remains to be seen.  But like I said, I’m not concerned.  There’s a lot of good riders in California.”

@Jeff_Nahill on Twitter

Sunday’s top choice winners: 2 (Queen of the Hill $5.20, third; Cat Burglar $5.20, fifth)

Sunday’s second choice winners: 1 (Kid Rollins $7, ninth)

Sunday’s third choice winners: 1 (Stormy Lucy $5.40, fourth)

Sunday’s long shot winners: 1 (Remind Mee $8.40, seventh)

Note: Racing resumes at Santa Anita on Saturday/Sunday for the close of the winter/spring meet. There will be mandatory Pick 6 and Super High 5 payouts on Sunday. The spring/summer meet opens Friday, April 24.)


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