08/01/2008 11:00PM

Purses to be cut 3.5 percent for final three weeks


DEL MAR, Calif. - Del Mar announced Friday that purses will be cut by 3.5 percent for the final three weeks of the meeting, effective Aug. 13. The cuts impact a wide range of races, from two Grade 1 stakes to everyday races for maidens.

The reduction was caused by a downturn in ontrack business and stagnant account wagering business in California, track officials said. Michael Ernst, Del Mar's chief financial officer, said the cuts will amount to approximately $10,000 a day.

The cuts will affect five stakes through the end of the meeting on Sept. 3. The Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 16 and the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Aug. 31 have been cut by $50,000, to $350,000. Three other listed stakes - the Solana Beach Handicap on Aug. 17, the El Cajon Stakes on Aug. 29, and the Torrey Pines Stakes on Aug. 31 - have been cut by $25,000, to $100,000.

Officials expressed optimism that the cuts could be restored through a retroactive payment later this year if business improved in coming weeks.

"I'd call it a tweak more than a drop," track president Joe Harper said. "If business picks up, or we get a few [pick-six] carryovers, we'll put the money back in there."

Through Wednesday, ontrack handle was down 7 percent, while all-sources handle, including intertrack, satellite, and account wagering services, was down 1 percent.

Ernst said account wagering handle in California "is flat." Track officials had hoped to show growth in that category, but an experiment conducted earlier this year at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita that allowed the four account wagering providers in the state - TVG, Twinspires, Xpressbet and Youbet.com - to take wagers on all California races was not extended to Del Mar after TVG retained exclusive rights to provide account wagering for the meeting.

Youbet.com is a partner of TVG and has offered betting on Del Mar. In addition, there has been a limited amount of betting in some states, not including California, via telephone through Xpressbet.

Racing officials desperately wanted the experiment to continue, but could not reach an agreement with the account wagering providers last month.

"Had we got something accomplished, this would not be happening," Ernst said.

Overnight purses will be affected by the cuts. As an example, director of racing Tom Robbins said purses for maiden special weight races for sprinters would be cut $3,000, to $50,000; and maiden special weight races around two turns would be reduced $3,000, to $53,000.