11/30/2015 2:48PM

Del Mar: Despite quality finish, fall meet takes hit

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Del Mar’s second fall season since the closure of Hollywood Park was, as track president Joe Harper said Sunday night after the meet ended, “a tale of two meets.”

Yes, it was the best of times, and – while not quite the worst of times – certainly a drop off from the prior year. This fall’s meet was five days longer – 20 days vs. 15 days – owing to an earlier start that was expected to help generate business because it coincided with the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.

But instead of a spike in handle and attendance that first weekend, the opposite happened. Horsemen with Breeders’ Cup runners had scant entries locally, field sizes were down, and big players largely stayed away from the track to concentrate playing the Breeders’ Cup from home rather than at Del Mar. That resulted in sizeable dips compared to last year’s averages, and Del Mar couldn’t quite rally over the final few weeks, even though the quality of racing was outstanding the last half of the meet, especially during the closing-week turf festival.

Del Mar’s daily average handle for 20 days was $9,786,891, compared to last year’s average of $10,327,629 for 15 days, a dip of 5.2 percent.

Ontrack attendance took a bigger hit, with an average of 6,180 fans per day compared to last year’s 9,055, a drop of 32.7 percent. The first week’s slow business, plus the lack of a blockbuster day like last year’s Hollywood Derby – when 21,889 came out to see California Chrome – were contributing factors.

Average field size was 8.13 starters per race, compared to 8.35 a year ago. Grass races averaged 8.95 runners compared to 9.11 last year.

“The first part of the meet nobody was around to enter,” Harper said. “They were all at the Breeders’ Cup, and we saw the damage at the entry booth. Once folks got back to town, entries picked up, and we got a lot of interest from the East Coast at the end of the meet. The racing the past few days was terrific.”

Harper said that having a second meet that is not during the height of the summer presents new challenges for the track in terms of luring local customers. He said that Craig Dado, the track’s vice-president of marketing, is urging a new approach.

“We’re a victim of our own success,” Harper said. “We’re viewed as a summer meeting – parties, fun in the sun – and no matter how much we tell people we’re open in the fall, we’re still known as a summer meet. So, from a business standpoint we have to make adjustments. We’re going to re-evaluate our marketing. Craig Dado voiced before the summer meeting that we can’t keep going with the same marketing. It has worked well for years, but we have to keep it fresh. There are a few new challenges out there for us.”

Of particular comfort to Harper is that both the main track and turf course performed well, with an excellent safety record and high praise from trainers and jockeys.

Rafael Bejarano won the riding title with 20 victories, two more than Santiago Gonzalez. Doug O’Neill led all trainers with 15 wins, two more than both Phil D’Amato and Peter Miller.

Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
I think the debate on the changing odds during a race speaks to a deeper problem in racing. as someone once said Ceasers wife not only needs to be virtuos she needs people to believe she is .and here lies racings problems .by letting this situation go on instead of applying a very easy fix (pardon the pun) they create mistrust that then permeates into other areas. by closing off the pools 45 seconds before the first horse goes in the gate (all pools including simulcast and online) they would solve this problem.so the pool would be closed the gate guy warned 45 seconds later they start loading. people see the odds before the race starts.problem solved.and they could then move on to other issues like drugs and jockey integrity. having odds change during the running of a race allows the bettor to assume that the pools are tampered with mid race.creating a huge advantage. it also allows for manipulation by allowing rebate shops offshore to make huge bets late on algorhytm betting patterns. Since they will get back 5% on all their bets they have huge advantages that are not available to other bettors. for racing to survive it has to address issues of corruption so that the public can trust it .in the 60"s racing was immensely popular then the mob got involved and in the 70"s it went into decline.with various scandals .now i believe its at a cross roads again only this time unless it takes on the issues of integrity it will die.
Jon Shonk More than 1 year ago
I remember Churchill tried the closing of the pools when the first horse went into the gate and it was not popular with both bettors and the tracks who likely lost handle. People will always be skeptical especially when it comes to gambling and integrity (like you mentioned) is one way to help.
Jon Shonk More than 1 year ago
After reading many of the comments about odds changing, takeout and the funniest of all that Del Mar is a dump, it seems everyone expected Del Mar to just open the doors and it will be summer again. Well, that certainly hasn't happened, but it couldn't be expected either. I've always found it funny that ever since simulcasts have shown the odds on their signal when the horses break out of the gate that people think the odds change in favor of the horse that wins. Some people do not realize that these wagers are made from all over the country and that it does take about 10 seconds to go through the system after the wagering is closed. Horses win when their odds go up during this time, but when they go down the conspirators jump all over it! As for the exotics takeout, it is high for all of California not just Del Mar. I agree that this has to change if California racing expects its handle to increase. This is only the second Fall season for Del Mar. Can you name a business that was wildly successful in only its second season/year? It is going to take time, research and hard work to make this meet successful. It appears both dirt and turf courses have been the best positive of the meet and that is something that should be applauded as safety should be a top priority. Most tracks nowadays would love to have an average of 6,000 a day. I'm looking forward to visiting this "dump" every chance I get next year!
Bob More than 1 year ago
During the last 4 days of the meet there were, I believe 8 graded stakes run at Del Mar. Of those 8 races 3 were won by horses paying $136, $76 and $30 to win. In a 4th of these 8 races there was a 59-1 longshot that finished 3rd, 2-1/2 lengths behind the even money winner and less than 1 length behind the second place finisher. The $76 winner of the GII Jimmy Durante Stakes was a horse making it's 3rd start after breaking its maiden in its previous start; a highly unlikely proposition as any competent handicapper knows. The $136 winner of the GI Matriarch was a horse that was 0 for 5 at Del Mar and was trained by a trainer with no wins at the meet. My point is that Del Mar, for the most part, Del Mar remains one of the most impossible racetracks in the country to handicap. Sure, everyone likes to get a nice price on a winner but when the outcome of a horse race becomes as random as rolling dice, you might as well play the lottery....and apparently the bettors are beginning to figure this out!
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
thank you could not have said it better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If a person makes a $100 wager on a horse race. Between the takeout before and after the race, when was the last time you saw a horse go up after the race? What about the trainer takeout? the illegal drugs, the uncoupled entries, when the horse that does not figure wins. that $100 wager is knocked down to about $10.00 of true action. A pure suckers bet.
Bob More than 1 year ago
And what about the taxes you have to pay on the winnings from which you aren't allowed to deduct your costs?
Richard Cadena More than 1 year ago
Del Mar is not Hollywood Park Race Track. Hollywood Park was one of the greatest race tracks in the country. It was also one of the safest, with its synthetic track. The speed freaks preferred the dirt main track, which is why there was no East Coast or national clamor to keep Hollywood Park open. The horse racing industry in part allowed the track to go down, in the long run hurting horse racing on the national level. Mainly one track left in Southern California/north of Del Mar, Santa Anita. Let's see if S.A. can pick up the slack; doubtful.
Andrew Connie More than 1 year ago
What is all this crying about? They close Hollywood park what do people think will happen? Then they close Fairplex, why? And go to a quarter horse track now let me tell you (frank ) that's a DUMP ! Hollywood park ok I live in the SGV so I understand Hollywood park wasn't in the best location (it's not Santa Anita ) ! But I did enjoy going on Friday nights and betting even when the last races where coming out of the fog. But it was a great track and decent turf course ,I'm guna just say it now We can not compete with Belmont & Saratoga turf courses, and if there's a comment about this ill let you know I'm already laughing at YOU! Fairplex personally I liked Fairplex the track was a bullring but it was good,track with good dirt ask most trainers about that track. The ones who cried about Fairplex where the ones who wanted it CLOSED ! And know there under investigation but no crying over spilled milk. I haven't even been to a track in over A year .Now want to know what's killing the racing in So Cal ? No particular order, Obviously some of the smaller fields and what I hate the most to many 5f ,5 1/2 f racing. Parking ,program ,racing form. I haven't had to buy a racing form in over 2 years or program, I have free parking not only that I get valet for free! Drinks Free .alcohol food 25% Off! Now tell Me how can Del Mar / Santa Anita compete with that?
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
Simple fix, start a week after BC. You have a great place and loyal following, this is a small issue, which some smart thinking re the dates will fix. Look at it this way, how'd you like to be "that new track in LA where they run quarter horses" dead chalk, and small fields. No future there. At least your future looks good.
Bob More than 1 year ago
Major league horse racing should take a break after the Breeders Cup. After all, they don't keep playing football after the Super Bowl. They don't keep playing baseball after the World Series and they don't keep playing college basketball after the Final Four is over. If they want to keep running low level claimers and toilet bowl tracks like Penn National, I suppose it is okay, although personally I can't stand low level racing; I never bet it and I don't think that cheap, lame horses should be raced at all. If you want to create a championship level of racing then you have to treat the horses, the riders and the trainers like champions rather than treating them like cannon fodder for the state tax revenue mill.
Mark Staats More than 1 year ago
Delmar has too many short fields.
Stewart Wolinsky More than 1 year ago
Yesterday at Parx a horse won and the odds said 6-1, 2 full minutes after the race was run with no payoff prices.. The horse paid $12.80, so help me this is true.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
u are right about Parx racing. They have a 30% takeout on exotic bets. I have never trusted that track. New york trainers can not win there. The great Doug Oneil could not win there. That guy won Grade 1 all over the country. I would not wager a dime at that track.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite things to do was to spend a day at the track. That said I no longer trust that racing is minimally honest. So I don't bet much anymore. Others are doing the same. Without integrity this sport is dead. Racing now resembles keno you pick some numbers and hope for the best. Handicapping is futile . Who in their right mind would bet serious money knowing that any horse including the slowest might win.
J Vette More than 1 year ago
You are 100% correct...Racing is getting sooooo corrupt, that you can't make any bet with any confidence. Look at Sunday, Baffert with the big even money favorite, he wins with a 7-1 shot who has run terrible.... PERCEPTION is he SCAMMED the BETTING public.
Bruce Epstein More than 1 year ago
EVERYONE SHOULD GROW UP . . . Late odds changes are late transmission of bets from off-site wage takers, i.e. OTS's, other tracks, Vegas, etc. That is all it is! If you think their is corruption in this, go to see site 51.
Ray Kielsmeier More than 1 year ago
What bull! Lots of talented trainers and runners. "Bet with confidence"? What? I started in 66' and confidence is a rare and misplaced emotion. Racing is corrupt in what way? Baffert winning with his longer odds horse? Whittingham did it all the time! I hate losing like everybody but I don't cry corruption. If a horse is getting good since it's last start it's not the trainers responsibility to tell you about it. Nor the other way.
Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
my comment has nothing to do with odds .i love long odds. have won on very long odds BIRDSTONE at 34/1 LEMON DROP KID at 29/1 .to mention a few .but those were horses that figured they had a shot. what i cant take too often is when a DTARA beats a BIG BROWN . and these days it happens too often, then there are the terrible rides.and the doped up horses.and miracle trainers.