Friday, August 26th, 2016   ( 2 years ago )

Del Mar to Open Later for Its 2017 Summer Race Meet

With a motivation to give its horses and horsemen more time to adapt and transition to its racing surfaces, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club applied for and was granted a later start date for its 2017 summer race meeting.
Following a California Horse Racing Board approval given on Thursday, the shore oval now will begin next summer’s season on Wednesday, July 19, giving it five extra days for its horsemen and its staff to ready for the start of its 78th summer stand. Further, the CHRB stated that Del Mar would have a similar block of dates in both 2018 and 2019.
Del Mar’s request asked for a return to its seven-week schedule and a Wednesday opening date, as it had done from 1971 through 2013. Following the close of Hollywood Park in 2013, Del Mar had shifted to a slightly earlier opening with eight weekends instead of seven on its calendar.
If the shore track had stayed on the eight-weekend pattern in 2017, its starting date would have been Friday, July 14, meaning there would have been only nine days between the closing of the San Diego County Fair on July 4 and the opening of the racing season. It would have been the shortest turn-around time in track history.
“We’ve been opening our doors earlier of late in an attempt to give our fans and our horsemen an extended opportunity to be part of racing at Del Mar,” said DMTC president and general manager Joe Harper. “But we’ve reached a point where we may be asking people to do too much in too short a period of time. We’d like to drop back to our old arrangement of a seven-week season and be sure that everyone is 100% ready and comfortable when that first race goes off. Our first priority – just as it has always been – is the safety of our riders and horses.”
The track’s 2017 summer dates will go from July 19 to Monday, September 4, which is Labor Day.  There will be a total of 36 racing days, as opposed to the 39 run this year.
Since 2009 Del Mar has run anywhere from 37- to 40-day meets at its summer sessions. Starting in 2014, it added a fall race meet to its calendar.  This year that meeting will be from November 11 to December 4 for a total of 15 racing days.
Del Mar’s race meet has traditionally followed on the heels of the highly successful San Diego County Fair conducted on the Del Mar Fairgrounds, which normally ends on or about the Fourth of July. The extensive facilities needed to conduct the Fair – which annually attracts more than 1.5 million people and is ranked among the top five Fairs in the country – require several days to clear off the grounds before DMTC workmen can begin their preparations and open the racing surface to horsemen.
This year, horses were first allowed to take to the Del Mar track on Sunday, July 10, meaning they had five days to accustom themselves to the surface before racing began. In 2017, horses will first train on the track on Tuesday, July 11, meaning they’ll have eight days to train in advance of the opening.
“Pushing the dates back allows our horsemen more time to get their runners on the track and allow them to acclimate,” said DMTC’s executive vice president for racing Tom Robbins. “Obviously, they’re coming to a different surface after racing primarily at Santa Anita and Los Alamitos for the rest of the year and it’s always good to let horses ease into a transition rather than rush.  Our horsemen are eager to race here – and that’s a good thing. Giving them more time to be ready can make a good thing even better.”
California Thoroughbred Trainers president Jim Cassidy applauded the request for additional transition time.
“Professional horsemen greatly appreciate Del Mar’s management taking the initiative to put the welfare of the horses on the track and throughout the backstretch above all other considerations,” he said.
Thoroughbred Owners of California president Mike Pegram expressed a similar line of thought.
“Del Mar is a special place for any owner to run horses,” he said. “While reducing the number of race days there was not an easy decision, allowing horses to get comfortable with their new surroundings is extremely important. TOC is supportive of Del Mar’s new calendar for 2017.”  
Del Mar’s current meet is slated to run through Labor Day Monday, September 5.