11/09/2016 11:00AM

Del Mar meet opens with new jackpot pick six

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The countdown is under way at Del Mar – for the autumn meeting that begins Friday and for a historic 2017.

Friday is the first of 15 racing days of the autumn meeting, which runs through Dec. 4. Next year, the corresponding meeting will include the Breeders’ Cup races, the first time the San Diego-area track will hold the two-day event.

Del Mar began to run an autumn meeting in 2014 following the closure of Hollywood Park in 2013, and it has a different feel than the popular summer meeting. Crowds are not as large, racing starts at 12:30 p.m. (except for 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving), and programs are mostly held on a Thursday-through-Sunday basis, rather than the five days a week of the summer meeting.

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For bettors, the most significant change this fall will be a restructured $2 pick six with a jackpot provision to be paid out if there is a single winning ticket. Under the new structure, 70 percent of the net pool will be paid to tickets with six winners or be carried over to the next racing day if there are no perfect tickets.

Of the remaining 30 percent, 15 percent will be paid to consolation tickets and 15 percent – the jackpot – will be paid out if there is a single winning ticket. If there is more than one winning ticket, the jackpot portion will be carried over to the next racing day until there is a single winning ticket, or until the final day when the entire pool must be distributed.

There is a possibility for two carryovers – the main pool and the jackpot pool.

Track officials hope the new structure will revive the pick six. In the last decade, lower-cost bets such as the 50-cent pick four and 50-cent pick five have overtaken the pick six as the preferred multi-race bet for many race fans. Pick four pools during Del Mar’s summer meeting this year routinely surpassed $1 million on weekends.

A 20-cent minimum jackpot pick six has been popular at Gulfstream Park in Florida in recent years. The pick six at Del Mar remains a $2 minimum.

Friday’s program, which honors military personnel on Veterans Day, has nine races, highlighted by the $75,000 Kathryn Crosby Stakes for fillies and mares on turf. There are 14 stakes at the meet, including 10 graded stakes. The racing highlights include two Grade 1, $300,000 races on turf – the Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 3 and the Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares at a mile Dec. 4.

Racing secretary David Jerkens said approximately 350-400 horses will be stabled at Del Mar through the meeting, with others being shipped on race days from venues such as Los Alamitos, San Luis Rey Downs training center, and Santa Anita.

Field size will be key to a successful meeting. At the 2015 autumn meeting, field size averaged 8.13 runners per race, down from 8.35 at the 2014 autumn meeting. The summer meeting this year averaged 8.31 runners compared to 8.79 runners in 2014.

“I think last year it took us a week to hit our stride,” Jerkens said of the autumn meeting. “It was the same in the summer. We finished stronger as the meet went on.”

Last year, the Breeders’ Cup races were held at Keeneland and coincided with the opening weekend at Del Mar. This year, the Breeders’ Cup races were at Santa Anita last weekend, which Jerkens said could boost interest from owners and trainers.

“I feel like things may be similar to 2014 when the Breeders’ Cup was at Santa Anita,” he said. “We’re running a pretty much identical schedule. I think the season has been well received by the horsemen. It’s certainly catching on that it’s part of the Southern California calendar.”