A good Del Mar summer meeting got even better for its horsemen this week as the track sent out checks totaling $1,370,000 that represented a retroactive payment of 10% on overnight purses by Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. The sum is a record payment of its kind for the track.
Aided by its highest-ever overnight purses, an increase in field size and a steady betting agenda throughout its 37-day season, the seaside track finished up its summer with more than $430-million pushed through the betting wickets for a daily average of over $11.6-million.
“Given the uncertainty of the horse inventory, we had some concerns coming into the meet” noted DMTC’s executive vice president for racing and racing secretary, Tom Robbins. “But we put some things in place to deal with the situation and the response was excellent. When you can have the kind of meet we had despite the problems that exist in our business, it is a tribute to all involved – horsemen, track staff and our racing fans.”
Among the adaptations the track instituted was its unique “Ship and Win” program, which paid incentives and bonuses to those importing horses from out-of-state to run at the meet. The program drew more than 100 horses to the session with many of them racing more than once, helping to boost field size from 8.2 in 2010 to 8.4.
For the 2011 meet, Del Mar paid out overall purses of $630,000 per day, a record for the track and nearly 14% higher than the total offered during the 2010 session. Its overnight purses alone in 2011 increased by 22% from the previous season and were the highest offered by any track in the country.
The track’s 72nd summer season had several other additional high points to it that included a business-positive resurgence at the claiming box that saw 246 horses haltered for nearly $6-milllion following a summer where those totals previously read 141 claims for $3.6-million; the introduction of a .50¢ Players Pick 5 bet that became one of the favorite wagers at the session and a $50,000 carryover “seeding” of the Pick Six pool on Sundays that pumped up the handle on the popular exotic wager by 15% and led to several husky next-day carryovers; and the presentation of a campy “Battle of the Exes” match race between formerly engaged riders Mike Smith and Chantal Sutherland that drew a huge response from both local and national media and an estimated extra 4,000 fans to the track.
Del Mar also outdid itself once more with its Opening Day crowd and surrounding extravaganza when a single-day record 46,588 piled through the gates of July 20, ensuring that first-day attendance at the shore oval rose for the seventh straight year. Those Opening Day numbers tied into the track’s overall increase in attendance since the turn of the century. In 2000, Del Mar averaged 14,252 fans per afternoon on track. The 2011 daily average of 17,844 means that number has increased by approximately 25%.