08/17/2012 12:09PM

Del Mar likely to make retroactive purse payment

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Del Mar is expected to make a retroactive purse increase later this year because of higher handle in the first four weeks of the meeting, chief financial officer Mike Ernst said on Thursday.

Through Wednesday, the 21st day of the 37-day meeting, ontrack handle had increased 12 percent compared to 2011. All-sources handle, including nationwide simulcasting and account wagering sources, had improved by 5.2 percent.

Wednesday’s handle was a major boost to business, with an all-sources handle of more than $12.9 million compared to $7.46 million on the comparable day in 2011.

Ernst said that the precise amount of the retroactive payment will not be known until several weeks after the conclusion of the meeting, on Sept. 5.

“At this point, we’re looking at a strong possibility of an underpayment,” Ernst said.

He declined to estimate the amount. “I don’t want to pick out a number,” he said. “I don’t want to miss.”

Retroactive purse increases have occurred frequently in recent years at Del Mar. Last year, the track had a retroactive payment of $1.37 million to owners who had horses that won money at the meeting. Ernst described the 2011 retroactive payment as “an exceptional level” and said that may not be achieved this year. “I don’t think it will be that high,” he said.

An increase in takeout on exotic wagers at California tracks since 2011 has helped boost purses. Revenue from the higher takeout was dedicated to overnight purses.

Working with the Thoroughbred Owners of California, California tracks have been making a retroactive payment as opposed to increases for the last weeks of a meeting, which doesn’t benefit those who raced earlier at the meeting.

“That is the fairest thing for all the owners that participated at the meeting,” Ernst said.

The expected purse increase is in addition to a two-tiered bonus system designed to lure horses from out-of-state to race at the meeting.

The bonus has two features – a $1,000 bonus for all starters, regardless of the type of races, and a 25 percent bonus to horses who earn purses in overnight races. First-time starters and horses who have run in the state in the last six months are not eligible.

Last year, the owners of 107 horses were paid $168,516 in bonuses.

Through Wednesday, the owners of 91 horses had been paid $184,275 in bonuses this meet. Ernst said the 2012 bonus program is likely to exceed $250,000 in payouts.