Jerkins: ‘So Far, So Good’

From Del Mar Publicity
DEL MAR, Calif. (Nov. 5, 2014) -- Friday’s opening day card of the inaugural Bing Crosby Season, drawn Tuesday, was in the books. The final two programs of the opening weekend were to be put together Wednesday.

And from racing secretary David Jerkens’ standpoint, the operative phrase could have been ‘so far, so good.’

“I’m happy about it overall,” Jerkens said early Wednesday morning from the stable area racing office, the central headquarters where entries are taken and fields are drawn.

“We thought certain spots (on the opening day card) would fill a little better. But I’m pleased especially with the way the Kathryn Crosby Stakes filled. Somewhat satisfied is how I’d classify it.

“It’s a good card. You always want it to be a little better. But I think there is some competitive racing for our betting customers.”

For the seven-week, 36-day summer season trainers and their support crews and horses ship in en masse. For the newly-minted 15-day, three-week-plus season that looms, economics and logistics prevent that from happening.

Some trainers, like Mark Casse, Peter Miller, Bob Hess, Jr., and Richard Mandella have reserved stalls in Del Mar’s reduced stable area for 20-40 horses.  The majority of trainers, however, have reserved a handful of permanent stalls and will opt to ship horses in close to or on the day of races and use “ship-in” stalls before returning to their bases at Santa Anita, Los Alamitos, Fairplex or San Luis Rey Downs.

Jerkens said there were 540 stalls allotted for the meeting but expectations are for 350-400 horses on site for the entire month.

Having horsemen spread out across Southern California complicates but doesn’t necessarily impede the process of putting together racing programs.

“It’s different from the summer, but the bottom line is that things went well (Tuesday),” Jerkens said. “We’re in uncharted territory here. We have an employee at Santa Anita taking entries and giving rundowns. Our text alert system gives trainers updates on what races are filling and what extras (in the condition book) we’re going to use.

“And then we communicate with the racing offices at the other facilities where horses are training.

“There are tracks around the country where there aren’t a lot of horses stabled. Kentucky Downs just completed its meeting and that’s mostly a ship-in deal. But it is a bit different (for Southern California) and logistically there are some challenges that you wouldn’t normally face.

“We’re taking it day by day. We’ll have to be flexible and we’re going to learn a lot as we go.”

The opening-day card consists of nine races with a total of 78 horses entered. An “average field size,” the number by which cards and meetings are judged, of 8.67.

“Our goal for the meeting would probably be 8.4-8.5, somewhere in that ballpark,” Jerkens said.  “I think Hollywood Park’s numbers (for the defunct track’s corresponding meeting in 2013) were about eight. I think matching or slightly bettering those numbers would be a realistic goal.

“Beyond numbers, we hope that the races are competitive. We’re packing in a lot in a short time – 14 stakes in 15 days – and I think those races are going to be competitive.”