01/18/2017 2:47PM

Delaware Park pushes back 2017 meet opener to early June

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Delaware Park will hold an 81-day season in 2017 – the same number of days as last year – but has moved its opening day back two weeks on the calendar.

Instead of opening on Preakness Day, as the track did last year, Delaware will open Saturday, June 3. The season will continue deeper into the fall and conclude Oct. 21.

John Mooney, the executive director of racing at Delaware Park, said the change was made to increase field size.

“The potential starters per day has been increasingly becoming stronger later into the season with each passing year,” Mooney said. “Last year, the average starters per race was 7.55 during the eight days of live racing in October, as opposed to 6.8 during the five days of live racing in May. We are anticipating this trend will continue, which will hopefully have a positive influence on our overall handle.”

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Delaware will race Saturdays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, with a first post of 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

Although this year’s stakes schedule will not be formally approved until February, the track’s signature race, the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap, is scheduled for July 15. According to track officials, the purse of the 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares will again be $750,000.

Last year’s Delaware Handicap was won by I’m a Chatterbox, who went on to win the Grade 1 Spinster at Keeneland.