03/26/2009 11:00PM

Del Mar intends to drop Monday racing


Del Mar will ask the California Horse Racing Board in April for permission to reduce its number of racing dates by eliminating Mondays for its upcoming summer meeting, track vice-president Craig Fravel said on Thursday.

The racing board holds its monthly meeting on April 23 in Los Alamitos, and must approve significant changes to Del Mar's racing calendar.

Last year, Del Mar was granted its customary 43-day meeting from July 22 to Sept. 9, racing on a Wednesday-through-Monday basis. Under the new plan, racing would be held on a Wednesday-through-Sunday basis, with the exception of Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7. The track would conduct 37 days of racing.

Del Mar also has decided to move the $1 million Pacific Classic, the track's richest race, to Sunday, Sept. 6 - the latest date the race has been run since it was inaugurated in 1991. The date of the Pacific Classic has varied from Aug. 9 to Aug. 30., and in recent years it has been run on the third weekend of August. The Pacific Classic is a major prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic, which will be run at Santa Anita in November.

Fravel said concern about the availability of race-ready horses is the principal reason for the reduction in dates. "It's really an issue related to horse population," he said.

Del Mar, located just north of San Diego, draws nearly all of its horses from the Los Angeles-area tracks. Currently, Santa Anita's barn area is full, with approximately 2,000 horses, but Hollywood Park has approximately 1,235 horses in a stable area that can accommodate 1,944 horses.

To make up for the lost days, Fravel said the track will run an additional race on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The Wednesday and Friday cards will have nine races, while Sunday programs will have 10 races.

"If we have the inventory to run additional races, maybe we'd run nine races on Thursday," Fravel said. "I think I see this as a long-term trend. The less-is-more concept is something that racing has wrestled with."

Referring to Mondays, Fravel said: "We're taking a day in which we have 8,000 people, our worst day from an attendance standpoint, and moving those races to days when we have two or three times as large of an audience. Our projections are it will be positive."

Del Mar recently received permission to reduce its schedule from the board of directors of the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which operates the fair grounds where Del Mar is located.