By Blood-Horse Staff
DEL MAR, CA (March 30, 2016)-Del Mar will present 43 stakes races during its 39-day season worth a total of $7.55 million. The summer meet runs from July 15 through Labor Day, Sept. 5.
Following the opening three-day weekend, the track will run five days a week (Wednesdays through Sundays) for the balance of the summer, finishing with a six-day week concluding on the Labor Day holiday.
Del Mar's 33 major stakes races will have purses ranging from $100,000 to $1,000,000. The remaining 10 overnight stakes will each be worth $75,000.
Projected purses for the meet will exceed $525,000 a day, the richest incentives of their kind in California and among the most lucrative of any race meet in the U.S.
A meet highlight will be the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr, I) Aug. 20. It will headline a stakes tripleheader that also will offer the $300,000 Del Mar Oaks (gr. IT) and the $250,000 Del Mar Handicap (gr. IIT).
Twenty of the stakes races will be run on the turf course, which was replaced and expanded for the 2014 season. The other 23 stakes are on a main track that was returned to dirt for the 2015 session, following eight years of racing on the synthetic surface Polytrack.
"We made some small tweaks this year, but for the most part we've got our usual highly anticipated stakes schedule lined up for the summer of 2016," said Tom Robbins, Del Mar's executive vice president for racing. "We moved a few stakes around and adjusted the values on several others to reflect our overall purse situation, but for the most part our horsemen and fans are going to find that Del Mar schedule they know and have come to love. Our stakes schedule has featured 43 stakes most recently. We're back with that same number again."
Several other changes involve new race dates for a couple of the stakes races. The $200,000 Yellow Ribbon Handicap (gr. IIT) will be run July 16, the first Saturday of the meet, moving from its usual spot at the end of Del Mar's meet. The $200,000 John C. Mabee Stakes (gr. IIT) will now be run Sept. 4, closing weekend.
These date changes for Del Mar's major filly and grass stakes races are because of limited turf racing in June and July at Santa Anita Park, while their turf course is replaced.
Catching up with a business dip during the 2015 meet that saw a substantial purse overpayment unfold, Del Mar has shaved the purses on four of its major stakes and all 10 of its overnights.
Taking the biggest hit was the Eddie Read Stakes, which this year had its grading reduced from grade I to grade II by the American Graded Stakes Committee. The Read carried a value of $400,000, but now will go postward on July 16 with a $250,000 purse.
Four other stakes were reduced by $50,000 each, and the 10 overnights each dropped $5,000 for the 2016 season to $75,000. Overall, the track's stakes schedule was reduced by 5% for the meet.
Track president Joe Harper believes a business bounce back is in order.
"We had some circumstances go against us last year, but I see better times ahead," Harper said. "We're opening for the first time on a Friday in forever and I think that will kick off a terrific starter weekend. We've got great racing lined up once more and a ton of additional events and happenings set to go. You can't beat a summer at Del Mar and I can just feel that this one is going to be a winner."
An additional change in the schedule will see the El Cajon Stakes for 3-year-olds renamed the Shared Belief Stakes, in honor of the late champion runner who dazzled racing fans during a brief career before he succumbed to an attack of colic this past December.
The dark son of Candy Ride won 10 of 12 starts, brought in more than $2.9 million in purses, and earned an Eclipse Award as top male juvenile for 2013. At 3, the gelding emulated his sire with an impressive victory in the Pacific Classic (gr. I).
The one-mile Shared Belief Stakes will be run Aug. 26. Del Mar also has additional plans to salute the horse on that day.
As in previous years, five of Del Mar's key stakes have been scheduled as Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" races, meaning a victory in any of them will guarantee the winning horse entry—with all entry fees paid—to a Breeders' Cup race, as well as a travel bonus.
One of the "Win and You're In" races is the Pacific Classic, which guarantees admission to the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic.
Del Mar's other races with Breeders' Cup ties are the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. I), the Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I), the Del Mar Handicap, and the Pat O'Brien (gr. II).
Del Mar will close out the meet with two top stakes races for 2-year-olds.
The Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) for fillies will be run Sept. 3 and the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) will be run on closing day, Sept. 5. Both have purses of $300,000 each.