© Benoit Photo
Operating through challenges and uncertainty as a result of the ongoing pandemic, Del Mar’s 2020 summer race meet delivered impressive results on several fronts, including the continuance of its industry-leading safety record.
Despite not having fans on track due to the pandemic and running 25% fewer race days than in 2019, Del Mar finished its 2020 summer race meet with an 8% total wagering increase compared to its 2019 summer meeting. Wagering totaled $466.68 million in 2020, an increase of $34.71 million compared to the $431.98 million wagered during the 2019 summer meet. Average daily handle for the 27-day 2020 session was $17.28 million, an increase of 44% over the daily average of $12.00 million for the 36-day 2019 summer meeting.
On-line wagering in the state and across the country picked up markedly and overcame the lower wagering on-track and at California’s satellite locations. California on-line wagering increased by 125% from 2019, while out-of-state betting grew 65%.
“Given the extraordinary circumstances, we are very pleased with our results. The racing product was first-rate and players around the country responded in-kind,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s CEO, Joe Harper. “It is especially gratifying that we were able to achieve positive business results while maintaining our commitment to the health and safety of our workforce and our neighbors despite the obvious challenges.”
The track had run a 36-day meet racing five days a week over the past three years, but because of the environment surrounding the pandemic, cut back to 27 days this summer.
Due to the reshuffling of the Triple Crown calendar, Del Mar was the California wagering host for its first ever Kentucky Derby on Saturday, September 5. All told, Del Mar handled over $24.8 million on the day making it the fourth highest wagering day in its history.
Due to horse recruitment efforts and the support of California horse owners, Del Mar was able to increase field size from 8.0 runners per race in 2019 to 8.4 in 2020.
“This was a unique season on multiple levels, but once again our horsemen and women were outstanding,” said Del Mar’s Executive Vice President for Racing, Tom Robbins. “They are a resilient group and we are extremely appreciative of their support. Together, we put on a terrific race meet.”
Del Mar’s commitment to safety and welfare was on display once again as the track held one of the safest race meets in its history. In both 2018 and 2019, The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database ranked Del Mar the safest major racetrack in the United States.
Top quality racing and hard-fought competition rose up throughout the summer season. Superstar Maximum Security returned to action for new trainer Bob Baffert and scored a pair of wins – one by a nose in the San Diego Handicap, the other in dominant fashion in the TVG Pacific Classic. Baffert unveiled his latest young superstar when Princess Noor won for fun in the Del Mar Debutante, then another future star came to light when Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal’s Dr. Schivel scored handily in the closing day Del Mar Futurity. Both those youngsters will be special to watch on down the line.
The battle for the Del Mar riding crown proved to be a season-long duel with two terrific riders – four-time champion Flavien Prat and the international newcomer Umberto Rispoli – hooked up in a fierce competition that went right down to the last day with Prat coming away a 50 to 49 winner by virtue of his score on Dr. Schivel in the Futurity. Trainer Peter Miller captured his eighth Del Mar training title when he saddled 28 winners over the course of the meet.
“There are so many people to thank for our success in this extremely unusual season”, said Josh Rubinstein, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s President and COO. “On the business side want to extend our appreciation to our broadcast partner, TVG, for its dedication and professionalism in bringing our races to a national television audience and promoting our brand every day. We also owe a debt of gratitude to the family of backstretch workers here who helped make this meet a success as well as officials from the San Diego County Department of Health, Dr. Ghazala Sharieff and her expert medical team at Scripps Health, whose guidance was invaluable.”