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HORSE RACING: Del Mar to break up Pacific Classic Racing Festival
BY JEFF NAHILL - Staff Writer | Posted: April 15, 2010 11:30 pm | No Comments Posted | Print
Font Size: Default type size Larger type size Share After a one-year experiment, Del Mar's Pacific Classic Racing Festival is dead, according to track officials.
When the entire stakes schedule is released Friday, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is expected to announce the $1 million Pacific Classic will return to the sixth week of racing, on Aug. 28, a Saturday, and the Grade I Del Mar Futurity will return to its traditional spot on closing day, this year on Sept.8.
Last year, Del Mar packaged 11 stakes races over the three-day Labor Day weekend, the final weekend of the meet, including moving the 7-furlong Futurity for 2-year-olds to Monday from its traditional Wednesday placement.
"It was strictly a business decision," said Tom Robbins, Del Mar's executive vice president, racing. "We tried some things last year and we didn't like the results.
"We had a late Labor Day last year on the calendar and that week just fell apart (businesswise)."
Del Mar will also return first post on Fridays to 4 p.m. and reinstitute the "Four O'Clock Friday" theme. The track will hold one less race on Fridays (eight instead of nine) and the first post will be 3:30 p.m. for the final three Fridays of the meet due to early sunsets.
The track will also announce in the near future that legendary rock band ZZ Top will hold a concert after the races on Sept. 4, a Saturday during Labor Day weekend.
The Pacific Classic will be held on a Saturday during this year's 37-day meet, which begins July 21. The 1 1/4-mile race on the Polytrack has mainly been held on Sunday in its history.
"There was a lot of back and forth on that," said Craig Dado, vice president, marketing. "We like to hold the race late in the card, and last year it was really late on Sunday and it just was not the festive party day that we like to have. Some people felt they had to leave to get back home, so we decided to go on a Saturday. No one has to worry about getting back home then."
The Pacific Classic will be going head-to-head with the East Coast's top race of the summer on Aug. 28, the Grade I Travers for 3-year-olds at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., but Del Mar officials don't feel they will be impacted since that event will be over hours before their race.
Robbins said Del Mar will hold the Pat O'Brien Handicap for sprinters at 7 furlongs and the Del Mar Mile at one mile on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course on Pacific Classic Day.
For a second straight year, the Pacific Classic won't be nationally televised on ESPN. Del Mar is in the process of finalizing a contract to have its races shown exclusively on Television Games (TVG).
Del Mar went with a 3 p.m. first post on Fridays last year in order to accommodate an extra race to the program, but officials again thought they lost their "brand" on the day.
"We had a lot of equity in that name," said Dado of Four O'Clock Fridays, "and even though it was just one hour, or 30 minutes later in the meet, some people just didn't think they could get out until 4 or 5 (p.m.) and just decided not to come at all."
Del Mar holds concerts every Friday after the races in the Plaza de Mexico area.
ZZ Top will be the headliner on Labor Day weekend. Last year, Del Mar held a concert after the races on Pacific Classic Day, but Dado said it was just sensory overload.
"It was just too much from an operational standpoint," said Dado, who added that Del Mar will begin charging more to get into the concerts after the races.
In the past, fans would pay less to just attend the concert. However, Dado said in the future it will be cheaper to come into the track during the races.
"We haven't finalized a price yet," said Dado, "but we will be charging more after the last race."