07/17/2010 4:29PM

Del Mar: Fields down for opening day


Wednesday's opening day program at Del Mar has drawn 89 horses for a 10-race program, a decline from the 93 runners that participated in the 2009 opening day program.

There will not be 89 starters on Wednesday. Aside from the inevitable late scratches, one race drew an oversubscribed field of 14, and will be limited to 12 starters. The first six races have single-digit fields, with 10 or more runners in the final four races, when the track will offer a 50-cent pick four for the first time. The pick four was a $1 bet at previous meetings.

Aside from small fields early on the program, what is arguably most disappointing is the absence of support for the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf, the annual opening day fixture. The race drew 10 entrants and will have only one division for the second consecutive year. From 1989 to 2008, the race had at least two divisions, and three on one occasion.

A drop in overall runners for opening day is not a good signal for the remainder of the meeting, which runs through Sept. 8. Track officials are aware of this. Most weekdays programs this year will have eight-race cards, instead of the occasional nine-race programs that were offered in 2009.