09/01/2013 5:32PM

Del Mar to consider adding races to 2014 summer meeting

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Del Mar officials will consider expanding the racing schedule for the track’s 2014 summer meeting after field sizes showed a notable increase at the current meeting, which ends Wednesday.

Track President Joe Harper said Sunday that adding races to the existing 37-day calendar would be a likely option instead of adding racing days. “It certainly is a thought, just seeing how strong the entries have been for most of the meet,” Harper said. “I think it’s something we need to talk about.”

Through Saturday, Del Mar had averaged 8.75 runners per race through 34 days of racing. Last year, the entire meeting averaged 8.66 runners per race. The highest average field size at Del Mar in the last 20 years occurred in 1995, with 9.01 runners per race.

At the current meeting, Del Mar typically has run eight races on weekdays, 10 on Saturdays, and nine on Sundays.

The track will have a different calendar in 2014, with the addition of a four-week November meeting. The track is scheduled to run four days a week that November.

For the 2014 summer season, Harper said that adding races, likely to weekday programs, would be easier than adding racing days, such as Mondays.

“I think there is more wiggle room,” he said. “You could add a race here and there.”

Additional racing days would require months of preparation, he said, not only for owners and trainers planning campaigns for their horses, but for the track’s front office, in the form of marketing and publicity.

The track has not raced on Mondays on a regular basis since 2008, a cutback caused by the recession and a decline in the population of Thoroughbreds in Southern California. The current inventory of horses in Southern California is approximately 3,000.

“We have to look at the economics of it,” Harper said of additional racing days. “It’s an expensive thing to do, but if there is a need for it, it’s intriguing. It’s got to be planned for the whole meeting.”

Director of Racing Tom Robbins said he is reluctant to plan significant changes for 2014 until the issue of auxiliary stabling on the circuit is resolved. The barn area at Betfair Hollywood Park is scheduled to close in early 2014, forcing about 1,000 horses to be relocated to Fairplex Park, Los Alamitos, and San Luis Rey Downs. There is a possibility that the horse population could decline, with runners being sent to other circuits.

Robbins described 2014 as “uncharted territory, with Hollywood shutting down. After the meeting, we’ll sit down and discuss the possibilities. It’s hard to see what our population will do.”

The current meeting will have 328 races, the same as last year. In 1996, when the track ran six days a week over 43 days, there were 392 races, with an average field size of 8.53 starters per race.

For the final days of the current meeting, Del Mar followed a racing schedule similar to 2012, with 11-race programs on the Saturday through Monday of Labor Day weekend and 10 races on Wednesday’s closing day. There could have been more. Several races over the weekend were oversubscribed to the extent that enough horses were excluded to create additional races.