Highlighted by its most successful single day ever, by a sparkling parade of stakes races and by a continuing enhancement of its reputation as a sporting/entertainment venue without peer in the west, Del Mar raced to an uplifting finish to its 77th summer season Monday.
The quality rich stakes schedule concluded with Klimt smartly winning the Grade I Del Mar Futurity – the race that has produced the last three winners of the Kentucky Derby.
The track’s handle and attendance numbers were again the tops of any meet in California and – in a run that stretches back decades – among the top figures of any race meeting in America. Further, one of its key indicators -- field size – closed strongly to finish up at 8.31 per race, placing it among the best the nation has to offer.
“We finished our summer in really strong fashion,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s president and general manager Joe Harper. “Big fields, world-class racing and enthusiastic fans. That’s what Del Mar is about and it surely is fun to be part of something so good.”
The meeting’s top day was August 20 when California Chrome electrified both a crowd of 24,155 on track and a national audience with a smashing score in the $1-million, Grade I TVG Pacific Classic, called by many “the race of the year.” Handle numbers that afternoon were the best ever registered at Del Mar as $25,126,232 poured through the windows from all sources, eclipsing the previous single-day record of $24,667,351 set on Pacific Classic Day in 2007.
The track’s wagering pools continued strongly throughout the season, notably its weekend exotic bets where Saturday and Sunday Pick Four pools routinely topped $1 million.
Total handle for the 39-day season was $465,285,525 for a daily average of $11,930,398. Total attendance for the session was 524,439 for an average of 13,447.
Del Mar’s executive vice president for racing Tom Robbins threw out a special salute to Southern California horsemen, who responded favorably to the track’s schedule and offerings.
“Our owners, trainers and riders all rose up to make this another special summer at Del Mar,” he said. “There were issues with many of the young horses fighting coughs and minor illnesses in the early portion of the meet, but we finished well with big fields in our last weeks, averaging more than 8.73 horses a race since Pacific Classic Day and over 9.34 horses a race this final week. The caliber of racing – especially among our stakes horses – was as good as I can ever remember here and racing fans had to be pleased by what we presented them throughout the meet.”
Notable stakes clashes over the summer included national/international kingpin California Chrome besting the game Dortmund in the San Diego Handicap; champion Stellar Wind surprising multiple-champion Beholder in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes; rapid Lord Nelson missing by a whisker a 43-year-old track record for six furlongs in the Bing Crosby Stakes; eastern invader Harmonize firing late to get past a strong field in the Del Mar Oaks; California Chrome’s tour de force tally over Beholder and Dortmund in the TVG Pacific Classic, and knockout victories by Union Strike (Del Mar Debutante) and Klimt (Futurity) in the meet’s foremost events for juveniles.
Del Mar’s summer stars are likely to shine throughout the year. As it has for many seasons in the past, the shore oval just north of San Diego has served as racing and training headquarters for champion horses in the west and beyond. Recently, national stars like I’ll Have Another, California Chrome, American Pharaoh, Nyquist, Songbird and Arrogate have employed Del Mar as a showcase for their talents and as a jumping off point for conquests in other locations.
Del Mar officials now look ahead to their third straight Fall season beginning this year on Veterans Day, November 11. The 15-day meet will run through Sunday, December 4.
Those same officials pointed with great anticipation toward a special 2017 racing calendar at Del Mar. First, the seaside track will return to a successful seven-week format for its summer session, shortening its stand to 36 days starting on Wednesday, July 19. Then, for the first time ever, the iconic racing grounds will play host to the sport’s most exciting two days of the year, the Breeders’ Cup and its 13 championship races worth $25 million in purses. Del Mar’s 2017 Fall meet will begin on Wednesday, November 1 with the Breeders’ Cup race days following on Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4.
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