Opening day at Del Mar is an event like no other! When the gates open for the first race on Wednesday, the roar from the crowd will be deafening. Last year almost 48,00o people were on hand for opening day, and this year that number could be exceeded. For racing fans in San Diego, Del Mar might be the only racing they see all year, and the locals come out in groves. The racing plus the tracks reputation as a “party place” and “place to be seen” makes for a meet like no other.
This year Del Mar will run thirty-seven racing days starting July 17 and running through September 4. Purses will average $650,000 a day, and there will be seven Grade one races contended during the meeting. The biggest of them all will be the Pacific Classic on August 25th, which could feature a rematch between Game On Dude and Dullahan. Game On Dude has not lost this season, and Dullahan has a love for synthetic tracks, especially Del Mar. There is also the possibility of the most popular horse in racing, Paynter, making an appearance during the meeting. Paynter has already posted a workout over the track, and could be pointing toward the San Diego Handicap.
While the horses will be getting most of the attention, and rightfully so, all the familiar trainers are back to slug it out for the title. Bob Baffert is always the favorite coming into Del Mar, and he looks loaded and ready to have a big meet. Peter Miller will be one of his biggest challengers as he won the Del Mar title last year, and John Sadler is coming off a training title victory at Hollywood Park. You also must throw in Doug O’Neill, who would have won the training title at Del Mar last year if it weren’t for a suspension late in the meet.
Like last year, Del Mar will offer a “Ship and Win” program offers $1,000 to the owner of any horse who runs at the meet that has not raced in California in the last six months and is not a first-time starter. If that horse is running in an overnight race, a 33% bonus is paid for prize money earned in the first start of the meeting. That rule is sure to attract shippers, and will make it harder for California trainers to dominate the competition.
The Del Mar riding title will be one to keep an eye on as well. Last year Rafael Bejarano was the winner, but he’ll face challenges from Edwin Maldonado, and Joe Talamo. Maldonado tied with Bejarano for the Hollywood Park riding title, and Talamo was just one behind them. You can also count on Mike Smith, Garrett Gomez, and Gary Stevens riding in the bigger races and making an impact. As an added bonus, Joel Rosario will be back in California to ride Undrafted, as well as many others, on opening day.
All the fun kicks off Wednesday! We’ll have two solid divisions of the Oceanside Stakes, as well as the first two-year old race of the meet which is a maiden special weight for two-year old fillies. Much like Saratoga, the two-year old racing is one of the many things that make Del Mar great. This will be the last year for Del Mar having one meeting, as starting next year they will have a summer AND winter meeting. That, along with many other things, should make this a fantastic meet. Don’t forget the Racing Dudes will have FREE win picks and simple plays for $3 for every day of the meet!