Wednesday, April 18, 2012

$7,775,000 in Stakes Purses Highlight Del Mar’s 75th Year

Highlighted by seven Grade I races, two new juvenile events on the grass and notable purse increases to 10 of its major offerings, Del Mar will present a robust summer schedule of 33 “advertised” and 10 “overnight” stakes with a total value of $7,775,000 during its highly anticipated 37-day race meeting.

The seaside track, founded by entertainment icon Bing Crosby in 1937, will be celebrating the anniversary of its 75th year during its July 18 to September 5 stand. And as it has for the past three seasons, it will conduct its racing on a Wednesday through Sunday basis with an additional day of sport on Labor Day Monday, September 3.

Foremost among the track’s showcase events will be the 22nd edition of the $1,000,000 TVG Pacific Classic, a 10-furlong testing for 3-year-olds and up that will anchor a stakes tripleheader program on Sunday, August 26. The Grade I headliner was captured in 2011 by Eclipse champion Acclamation and he’s considered a solid candidate to try for the prize again in 2012.

The two new juvenile contests – the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf and the Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf – each will be run at a mile on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course with purses of $100,000. The races, meant as stepping stones toward the two Breeders’ Cup’s juvenile grass offerings, also expand the track’s emphasis on its 2-year-old program, considered by many to be among the best in the nation. The Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf will be run on Labor Day, while the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf will be unveiled on closing day.

The introduction of the Oak Tree name to the Del Mar stakes roster serves as a salute to the now-dormant racing association that conducted one of the most successful and beneficial meetings in the country for more than 40 years up until 2010, running almost exclusively at Santa Anita Park. The group, which over the years dispensed more than $26 million to racing-related charities, has partially funded the two new juvenile events and also added funds to Del Mar’s Palomar Handicap, which this year will be renamed the Yellow Ribbon Handicap, a title with original Oak Tree ties. That Grade II race, which will be run under the same conditions as in the past (mile and one-sixteenth on turf, fillies and mares, 3 and up), will be presented on Labor Day with a purse of $250,000.

“Having the Oak Tree name linked with that of Del Mar’s is an honor for both groups,” said Del Mar’s chief executive officer and president Joe Harper. “Oak Tree stands for the best in this business; they always did and they always will. Clement Hirsch, my mentor, was an original founder of both Oak Tree and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and my first job in racing management was with him at Oak Tree. I couldn’t be happier to see us in a way come together again.”

Del Mar’s 10 stakes purse increases serve a two-fold purpose for the most part – ensuring that the track’s Grade I program has no race with a value less than $300,000 and also boosting its California-bred offerings as further encouragement for the state’s breeding industry.

Four Grade I races – the Bing Crosby Stakes (July 29), the Del Mar Oaks (August 18), the Del Mar Debutante (September 1) and the Del Mar Futurity (September 5) – all have had their values enhanced by $50,000 to $300,000 for the upcoming meeting. Additionally, four California-bred stakes also have been made more lucrative, two at $100,000 additional each – the Fleet Treat Stakes (July 28) and the Real Good Deal Stakes (August 3) – making them each worth $200,000, while two others – the Generous Portion Stakes (August 29) and the I’m Smokin Stakes (September 3) – have been upped by $50,000 to $150,000 each. Finally, the Grade II Del Mar Derby (September 2), the track’s 3-year-old championship race, has had an additional $50,000 tacked on to its conditions meaning it will run for the 68th time this year with a $300,000 prize and, as noted earlier, the newly renamed Yellow Ribbon Handicap has been raised by $100,000.

“We are projecting good things for this anniversary summer, especially on our high end,” said Del Mar’s executive vice president for racing and racing secretary Tom Robbins. “If you’ve got good horses, we’ve got good places to go with them. And we’re leading the charge with tracks around the state that are rewarding owners for buying and racing California-breds. Our breeding industry is heading for a turnaround and our Cal-bred purses will help to show the way.”

Besides the four Grade Is with added purse value and, of course, the Grade I Pacific Classic, Del Mar also will present two additional Grade I features – the $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes (July 21) and the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (August 4).

The track will present two or more stakes on nine different days throughout the meet, topped by the Pacific Classic Day triple-header that also will spotlight a pair of Grade II tussles -- the $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes at seven furlongs and the $200,000 Del Mar Mile on the lawn.

Five of Del Mar’s stakes have been tabbed as “Win and You’re In” races by the Breeders’ Cup, allowing the winners automatic entry and additional monetary benefits into their designated season-ending championship events. Those races are the $200,000 San Diego Handicap (July 28), the Clement L. Hirsch, the $200,000 Del Mar Handicap (August 25), the TVG Pacific Classic and the Del Mar Futurity.

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