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HORSE RACING: Del Mar working to avoid problems
StoryDiscussionBy JEFF NAHILL - email@example.com | Posted: July 7, 2010 6:21 pm | No Comments Posted | Print
Hollywood Park won't hold its scheduled eight-race thoroughbred card Thursday after failing to gain enough entries. It marks the third time this meet that the Inglewood track has failed to fill a card and canceled a program.
With less than two weeks to the opening of its 37-day meet on July 21, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is a little worried about that development.
"You're always concerned," said Tom Robbins, Del Mar's vice president, racing, on Wednesday. "Canceling any day isn't good. It's one of the worst things that can happen."
In an effort to avoid such an occurrence at the seaside oval, Del Mar is taking a proactive stance.
According to Robbins, the track is in talks with the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) and California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT) to trim some races from its schedule.
Del Mar has already dropped one race from its Friday program by moving first post back to its popular 4 p.m. slot. Last summer, there were nine races on Fridays.
Robbins is also trying to drop one race from the Wednesday program, except on opening day, and hopes to run just eight races on most Wednesdays.
"We're trying to stay ahead of the curve," Robbins said. "Just like last year when we asked to drop Monday racing, we're trying to think ahead."
Part of Hollywood Park's problem this meet was the track attempted to run 60 days of racing as opposed to 55 days last year. With three cancellations, that will leave two extra days heading into Del Mar.
"It's always tough at this time of the year," said Robbins, "because horsemen are getting ready for Del Mar."
Many owners and trainers point for the Del Mar meet due to its purse structure and position on the racing schedule.
Robbins said he doesn't anticipate problems filling races the first two or last two weeks of the meet. However, he does have some concerns about the middle three weeks of the seven-week meet, which ends on Sept. 8.
"In the middle period, you just don't get the horses recycling like they use to," Robbins said. "If I had any concern, that would be it."
In the past, trainers had horses run every two weeks, but over the last few decades that has stretched to three weeks or a month, creating more headaches for racing secretaries.
At the end of Del Mar, many trainers want to get their horses into races -- particularly on the grass -- before the circuit moves to the fair circuit at Fairplex Park in Pomona, which doesn't have a grass course, while racing on a five-eighths dirt oval.
There is also the statewide issue of fewer horses available to run as some owners have gotten out of the business because of the nationwide economic downturn.
On a positive note, Robbins did report that nominations to the Del Mar Futurity and Debutante, the highlight of the meet for 2-year-olds, are "up slightly." Robbins said he expects a 10 percent reduction in horses this summer on the Del Mar backstretch with an estimated 2,000 horses on the grounds.
Part of that reduction will come from the fact that several trainers have decided to keep their horses at Hollywood Park training on its Cushion Track and just ship in for races at Del Mar.
"That's good and bad," Robbins said. "I understand the economic issues. Everyone is fighting to keep going. It's expensive to ship down here (for the summer).
"It's a positive to have fewer horses on the track in the mornings, but it will be more difficult to fill races when the trainers and owners are two hours away."
Del Mar will allow horses to begin shipping onto the grounds Sunday morning with the main Polytrack open for training beginning Monday at 4:30 a.m.