Updated on 08/17/2016 9:10PM

Del Mar cuts purses for overnight races by 5 percent


DEL MAR, Calif. – Purses for overnight races at Del Mar will be reduced by approximately 5 percent for the final two weeks of the summer meeting after lower-than-expected business in recent weeks.

Tom Robbins, Del Mar’s director of racing, said on Saturday that the reduction will take place in allowance, claiming, and maiden races. The stakes program will not be affected.

This is essentially the second purse cut of the year at Del Mar. Before the meeting began on July 15, overnight purses were cut approximately 10 percent from the 2015 summer-meeting levels because of lower handle in the last year.

The purse account had a deficit of more than $1 million before the start of the current meeting, a figure that has not been reduced, Robbins said.

“It’s still up there,” Robbins said. “We’re trying to manage this and bring things in line as we finish the meeting.”

Handle figures have failed to keep pace with the 2015 meeting. Through Sunday, all-sources handle, including satellite and account-wagering sources, was down 4 percent.

The summer meeting runs through Sept. 5. The lower purses will go into effect with racing on Aug. 24 and cover the final 11 days of the 39-day meeting.

Robbins said purse reductions will range from 4 percent to 5.5 percent for various categories of races.

“Some things are rounded,” he said.

As an example, he said maiden special weight races will be reduced from $63,000 to $60,000.

Robbins said a drop in field size has affected handle. Larger fields are more attractive to gamblers, offering more opportunities in a variety of wagers.

Through Sunday, the 23rd day of the meeting, fields had averaged 8.13 runners per race compared with 8.73 runners per race during a similar period at the 2015 summer meeting. The entire 2015 summer meeting averaged 8.79 runners per race, which equaled the track’s highest figure this century.

Robbins cited illness that affected some stables as one of the causes for lower field sizes this summer.

At the same time, there is widespread hope among track officials that this Saturday’s program, which includes the $1 million Pacific Classic, will draw strong business.

The Pacific Classic field is led by California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year, and Beholder, the three-time champion mare who won the 2015 Pacific Classic.

 “Hopefully, we can have a strong Saturday,” Robbins said.

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