05/29/2011 11:17AM

Del Mar will offer incentives to attract out-of-state shippers

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Del Mar will launch an incentive program that will pay a $1,000 appearance fee, and a 20 percent bonus for initial purse money earned in overnight races, to the owners of horses from outside of California who start at the upcoming meeting from July 20 to Sept. 7, the track announced on Sunday.

Only horses shipped to California will be eligible for the incentives, which is designed to attract owners and trainers from outside the state into racing at Del Mar and prompt California-based horsemen into acquiring horses from other circuits and internationally. Horses that have raced for the same owner or ownership group at a California track in the last six months will not be eligible for the incentives.

The program will be financed equally by Del Mar and the Thoroughbred Owners of California, through the purse fund, according to director of racing Tom Robbins.

The appearance fee will be paid to horses shipped to the track for any race, including stakes, while the 20 percent bonus will be paid on purse monies earned for finishing first through fifth in overnight races. Robbins said if a similar program had been in place last year that approximately 50 horses would have been eligible for the incentives.

“There is a shortage of horses, not just in California, but nationally,” Robbins said over the weekend. “We’ve got to provide some incentive to seek horses from outside the [California] borders. We can provide something that will help.”

Robbins said that discussions are ongoing with trainers from other circuits about sending stables for the meeting, but declined to name those trainers “We’ve got some feelers, trainers that are looking at it that haven’t been here,” Robbins said.

The incentives could help average field size. Last year, Del Mar averaged 8.18 starters per race and ran 325 races. In 2009, the track averaged 8.56 starters in 344 races. For the 2011 meeting, Del Mar plans to run five days a week for most weeks, Wednesdays through Sundays, one more day than Santa Anita and Hollywood Park offered on most weeks in the first half of this year. Racing will also be held at Del Mar on Labor Day, Sept. 5.

Trainer John Sadler, the president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers association, said he is in support of the incentive program, and has been scouting horses from other circuit to add to his stable.

“My gut reaction is that it’s good,” he said. “Every little bit helps.”

Last year, Midwest-based trainer Cash Asmussen had a small stable at Del Mar, winning with 2 of 8 starters. Otherwise the season largely featured California-based trainers. In addition, several runners were imported from Europe and made their first starts in this country in overnight races for a variety of trainers.