Del Mar will host its second “Bing Crosby Season” – this one including two days of Breeders’ Cup races – starting Thursday, October 29 with a solid crew of racing officials on board as the seaside track closes out its 76th year of Thoroughbred sport in Southern California.
Approximately 100 individuals make up the wide-ranging racing staff that puts on the show at the iconic racing headquarters and heading the group is Tom Robbins, Del Mar’s executive vice president for racing and industry relations. Now in his 35th year guiding the racing office, Robbins, a member of one of California’s most prominent racing families, has evolved into a racing executive of both national and international stature who serves on boards and committees for the Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.
Robbins right-hand man at Del Mar is the track’s racing secretary, David Jerkens, who also hails from a prominent racing clan. This is Jerkens’ second full year at the shore oval after having run, or worked in, racing departments in Northern California and New York.
Chief aides in the racing department are Zachary Soto, serving his 25th year at the track, and stakes coordinator Chris Merz, who is completing his first full year in that assignment. Other key staffers are stable superintendents Dennis Sparks and Tom Fator; jockey room clerk of scales Charles McCaul and his assistant, Matt Nichols, and clerk of the course Melanie Stubblefield.
The track’s Board of Stewards will be the same trio that oversaw the summer race meeting: Scott Chaney (in his 10th year at Del Mar), Tom Ward (also in his 10th year) and Kim Sawyer (seventh year). The track’s safety steward will be former rider David Neusch.
Placing judges will be Robert Moreno, Merry Young and Sue Brent. The paddock judge will be Karen Denovel, who will do double duty as a patrol judge along with Heather Correa.
The track’s veterinarian crew will consist of Dr. Dana Stead, D.V.M., and – working for the California Horse Racing Board – Dr. Barrie Grant, D.V.M.
Other officials for the five-week session will include Bridget Crawford, paymaster of purses; Dianne Piper, horse identifier; Russell Hudak, morning line maker; John Lies, timer, and Victor Tovar, horseshoe identifier.
Returning as head starter for the meet is Jay Slender, who filled that role last fall and is also the head starter at Santa Anita Park.
The 20-day “Bing Crosby Season” will be presented on a Thursday through Sunday basis with first post for most programs at 12:30 p.m. The exceptions to that start are on the two Breeders’ Cup days – Friday, October 30 and Saturday, October 31 – when first post for Del Mar’s live cards begin at 12:45 p.m. Additionally, there will be a special Thanksgiving Day program on November 26 when holiday racing is off and running at 11 a.m.