07/13/2014 9:18PM

Big fields for opening day, including 13 for Oceanside

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Barbara D. Livingston
Diamond Bachelor, a two-time winner at Del Mar last summer, heads the field of 3-year-olds for the opening-day feature, the Oceanside Stakes.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Fueled by high purses, a wider turf course, and the eagerness to race at Del Mar, a total of 123 horses were entered Sunday for the 10-race opening-day card on Thursday at Del Mar.

 There were at least 12 runners entered in eight of the 10 races, including an overflow field of 13 in the traditional opening-day feature, the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes, a one-mile grass race for 3-year-olds. The field is headed by Diamond Bachelor, who won twice on this course last year at age 2, including a stakes. His rivals include Aotearoa, Enterprising, and Northern California stakes winner G G Ryder.

 A maximum of 12 can run in the Oceanside, so Sammy Mandeville wound up on the also-eligible list.

 Del Mar’s turf course was widened since last year. There are three grass races on Thursday, and at least the maximum of 12 was entered in all three races.

 But the real difference will be seen in turf sprints. Friday’s races also were drawn on Sunday, and that card includes a five-furlong grass sprint that drew 10 runners, including the highly regarded but oft-absent Caracortado. In years past, turf sprints were limited to seven runners.

 The first 2-year-old maiden race of the meet is on Thursday, with 14 California-breds entered in the sixth race over five furlongs. A maximum of 10 can run in the race. Maiden special weight races at Del Mar, like that one, are worth a whopping $75,000.

 Thursday’s card begins at 2 p.m. Pacific. Per usual, the first race, a $10,000 claimer, will be run at one mile, so the race can begin in front of a partisan crowd ready for action 45 weeks since the horses last raced here.

 Rafael Bejarano, the leading rider at Del Mar the past two summers, returns to action on Thursday and has mounts in seven of the 10 races. Bejarano broke a collarbone, a rib, and both shoulder blades in an accident on Santa Anita’s turf course on May 10.

 This will be the first of two meets at Del Mar this year. There also will be a brief meeting in November, with Del Mar having picked up some of the dates formerly run by Hollywood Park at that time of year.

 That fall meeting will be the last one for Del Mar on its current Polytrack surface. The track will then switch back to dirt in advance of its 2015 summer meeting.