The eagerly anticipated return of word-class Thoroughbred horse racing at Del Mar did not disappoint, as record wagering and capacity crowds highlighted opening week, which kicked off on Friday, July 22.
Racing fans from around the country and around the world celebrated that Del Mar was back Friday wagering $23.56 million, a record for an opener at the shore track. They didn’t let up on Saturday and Sunday either and for the three-day weekend Del Mar finished up with a robust daily average handle of $22.35 million, another Del Mar record.
Opening Day on Friday brought in a sold-out house of 21,680 with the venue's capacity limited to provide a comfortable guest experience. The festive crowd on hand enjoyed room to roam, to cheer and to savor a special day at the races with gorgeous weather and sea breezes providing the perfect backdrop. Balnikhov, ridden by Umberto Rispoli and trained by Phil D'Amato, weaved through traffic and drew clear to win the Opening Day feature, the Oceanside Stakes, for owners Little Red Feather Racing, Madaket Stables and Old Bones Racing.
The track’s Pick 4 and Pick 5 bets regularly surpassed the $1-million mark in their pools, making them prime targets for multi-bet players. Del Mar officials indicated that field size, 10.6 runners per race, was one of the leading drivers for the record handle.
“We hoped for this kind of beginning, but it turned out even better than we thought,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club president Josh Rubinstein. “We’ve gotten terrific support from our horsemen and horsewomen, from racing fans across the country and, of course, from the horses themselves, the amazing athletes who run here. Our team feels really good about our racing surfaces and our racing office put together three spectacular programs on consecutive days to get us off to a great start."
“Del Mar continues to showcase the very best of California racing," said Gary Fenton, Chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Del Mar team to highlight all the work, effort and investment that goes into putting on world-class racing in the state.”
After its three-day opening week, Del Mar will return for a seven-week run of Thursday-thru- Sunday racing that will take it up to and including Labor Day weekend. It then will finish out with a three-day final week of Friday-thru-Sunday, September 9, 10 and 11.