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Del Mar summer meet closes with increases in handle, field size

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

DEL MAR, Calif. – Del Mar had another strong increase in handle and a small decline in on-track attendance following a summer season that ended on Monday that featured robust field size and, in contrast to issues that plagued the track several years ago, extremely safe racing.

Del Mar reported all sources handle averaging $13.44 million per day, a gain of 6.8 percent from last year, and that followed a 5.1 percent gain from 2016 to 2017.

The betting numbers likely were due in part to another year-over-year increase in field size, this time to 8.7 runners per race.

On-track attendance averaged 13,070 per day following last year’s average of 13,240.

“The meet was terrific,” Joe Harper, Del Mar’s chief executive officer, said following the final race on Monday. “The handle has been up continuously, field size was up again over last year, and last year was better than the year before that. It’s nice to see that positive growth.”

Harper praised the job of the racing office, headed by vice president Tom Robbins and racing secretary David Jerkens, with putting on a show on which fans were eager to wager.

Both the turf course and main track performed well. Although the main track was often slow, it was safe. There were six fatalities this summer, but just one occurred from a racing-related fracture. There were four deaths during morning training, including Bobby Abu Dhabi, the stakes winner who apparently had a cardiac event during a workout. Jockey Victor Espinoza was injured in that incident. The only other afternoon death occurred as the result of an accident in which apprentice Assael Espinoza dropped over on a horse ridden by Corey Nakatani, sending Nakatani and his mount to the ground.

“Safety is everything and it showed,” Harper said, crediting trackman Dennis Moore, who oversees the dirt course, and Leif Dickinson, the turf course superintendent.

Harper said that in light of the shooting at the track on Sunday, Del Mar would review with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department – which is the local law enforcement entity – to see “if we need to do more.” Del Mar does not have metal detectors at its admission gates.

Harper said he thought track security and Sheriff’s personnel performed as trained on Sunday.

“If there’s an active shooter here, we know what to do,” Harper said. “Despite the scary thing that happened, everything was in place and there was a happy outcome.”

Drayden Van Dyke was the meet’s leading rider with 42 wins, five more than Flavien Prat. It is his first title at Del Mar.

“Really satisfying,” Van Dyke said. “I’m jumping up and down inside.

“This was the objective for me and my agent,” he said, referring to agent Brad Pegram, “going in.”

Peter Miller won the training title with 31 wins, 10 more than Doug O’Neill. It is Miller’s third title at a Del Mar summer meeting.

Accelerate, winner of the Pacific Classic, was voted Horse of the Meeting. He is owned by Kosta and Pete Hronis, who led all owners in purse earnings, their fourth title in the last six years.

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