The historic racetrack bordering the blue Pacific will open its 70th racing season Wednesday, July 22 with 10 races headlined by the traditional opening-day featured Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds going one mile on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
One need look no further than Eclipse Award-winning older filly or mare Zenyatta, winner of the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic and now undefeated in 11 career starts. Zenyatta, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Moss and trained by John Shirreffs, is one of only three horses in the modern era – all mares incidentally – to rack up an undefeated record in double digits. The well-documented careers of Personal Ensign, with 13 victories, and Peppers Pride, with 19, are targets for Zenyatta.
The powerful 5-year-old’s schedule calls for her to shoot for win No. 12 in Del Mar’s Grade I, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the main track on Sunday, August 9, a race she won in 2008 while setting a track record.
Other horses figuring to return to defend 2008 championships include Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed, being readied for a second run at the Grade II, $250,000 San Diego Handicap Sunday, August 2 and another try in the $1-million Pacific Classic on Sunday, September 6; Black Mamba in the Grade I, $350,000 John C. Mabee Stakes Sunday, August 16, and Whatsthescript in the Grade II, $300,000 Del Mar Mile Saturday, August 29. Additionally, In Summation is expected to return for a third Grade I, $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes, in which he finished first in 2007 and second in 2008.
Del Mar’s premier race of the meet is the Grade I Pacific Classic, slated this year for Labor Day weekend. The 1 1/4-mile test is likely again to draw Well Armed, who was runner-up to Go Between in 2008, Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip, the veteran Awesome Gem, who finished seventh and second in the last two running of the race, as well as the Midwest monster Einstein, who has proven himself at the top level on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces.
Traditionally, the Opening Day Oceanside is run in two divisions and that figures to happen again this year. The race for 3-year-old grass runners serves as one of the preps for the Grade II, $350,000 Del Mar Derby, slated for Sunday, September 6. The Derby generally determines the meet’s 3-year-old champion.
Just as the equine quality will be at the highest level, so will the human equation. Heading up the trainer division is Bob Baffert, seven-time champion at the seashore and newly tapped to enter racing’s Hall of Fame this year; fellow Hall of Famers Jack Van Berg, Ron McAnally, Robert Frankel, Neil Drysdale and Richard Mandella, as well as defending champion John Sadler, three-time leader Doug O’Neill and other seasonal champions Jeff Mullins, Mike Mitchell, Bill Spawr and Bob Hess, Jr.
Among jockeys, Del Mar can boast three-time top money winner and two-time Eclipse champion Garrett Gomez; two of the nation’s hottest riders in defending Del Mar champ Rafael Bejarano and the up-and-coming Joel Rosario; Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who rode three 2008 Del Mar champions – Zenyatta, Madeo and Stardom Bound; and former Del Mar titlists Alex Solis, Corey Nakatani, Michael Baze, Victor Espinoza and David Flores.
An early highlight of the meet will be the unveiling Saturday, July 25 of a 6x30-foot mural depicting Del Mar’s history through caricatures created by racing’s most well-known artist Pierre Bellocq, know to most as “Peb.” The colorful mural occupies a spot on the east wall of the entrance to the Clubhouse/Turf Club and will be featured on a poster the track will sell.
FACTS AND FIGURES FOR DEL MAR’S 70TH SUMMER SEASON
DATES: Wednesday, July 22, through Wednesday, September 9; 37 days of racing; dark on Mondays and Tuesdays.
LOCATION: At the Fairgrounds in Del Mar, west of Interstate 5, 20 miles north of San Diego and approximately 100 miles south of Los Angeles.
POST TIMES: First race 2 p.m., except on Fridays when racing begins at 3 p.m.; 1 p.m. post time on Pacific Classic Day, Sunday, September 6.
HIGHLIGHTS: Approximately $22 million in purses, including $6.95 million in
advertised stakes money, topped by nine Grade I event, including the $1 million Pacific Classic, Sunday, September 6.
WAGERING: $2 Win, Place and Show; $2 Rolling Double on all races except last; $1 Pick Four on final four races; $1 exacta and $2 Quinella on all races; $2 parlays; $1 Trifecta on all races with at least six betting interests; $1 Superfectas require at least eight betting interests and are held on all races except the first in the Pick Six sequence; .10-cent Superfectas; $1 Rolling Pick Three starting with first race; $2 Pick Six on day’s final six races; $1 Place Pick All; $1 Super High Five, requiring eight betting interests, on the day’s last race.
Early bird wagering is offered on track from 9-10 a.m. on all racing days except Fridays, when it is available from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
PRICES: Admission to Stretch Run (includes Infield) $6/ Clubhouse $10 (all paid admissions receive a free program, a $2 value); Opening day only – Stretch Run admission $10, Clubhouse admission $20; Admission to Stretch Run for active military with ID free every day; Stretch Run reserved seat and Clubhouse reserved seat $5 Wednesday and Thursday; same seats cost $8 Friday, $10 Saturday and Sunday and Labor Day, $15 Opening Day and Pacific Classic Day. General and Early Bird parking, $8, Valet, $20. Diamond Club members receive a 50% discount on Stretch Run and Clubhouse admissions every day. Sign up is free at Customer Service locations.
INFORMATION: Mailing Address: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, P.O. Box 700, Del Mar, CA 92014; Telephone: (858) 755-1141; FAX: (858) 792-1477; Internet Address: http://www.delmarracing.com.
TICKET OFFICE: (858) 792-4242; hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday; 9 a.m. to noon, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.