Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will pay its horsemen a record under-payment amount in excess of $1-million following the conclusion of its 37-day race meeting on Wednesday.
The payment, which will see owners receive at least an additional 8% on top of their overnight purse earnings during the seven-week session, was realized because of record purses, good field size and solid wagering numbers during the track’s 72nd season.
Despite dire predictions, Del Mar was able to increase its field size – from 8.2 to 8.3 per race – while running virtually the same number of races it had in 2010. Additionally, though overall handle numbers have slipped slightly from last year’s figures, the track will finish its meeting averaging more than a California high of $11-million per afternoon at the betting windows, a feat that easily surpassed projections.
Del Mar representatives and those from the Thoroughbred Owners of California will sit down once the final results are in and work out the exact numbers of the underpayment. Checks are likely to be issued to those owners who won overnight purse monies at the stand by November.
Del Mar’s purses for 2011 will be well above the $600,000 per day mark, readily establishing a single-season record for the seaside oval. Last year its daily purses averaged $556,324. Its overnight purses this summer are not only the highest ever offered in California, they are the highest currently offered by any track in the country.
A reflection of what those purses have meant has been shown in the bustle
of claiming activity during the meet, producing numbers that hail back to several seasons ago before economic conditions contracted all around the country. Last year the track saw 141 claims recorded for a total of $3,635,500. This summer, through Sunday’s 35th racing card, there have been 238 claims made for a total of $5,764,500.
MAJESTIC CITY HAS ROLE OF LOCAL FAVORITE FOR FUTURITY
Creative Cause is the 9-5 morning line favorite for Wednesday’s $250,000 Del Mar Futurity. The actual favorite will, of course, be determined by the pari-mutuel wagering in the hours leading up to the race.
But when it comes identifying the local favorite, the obvious choice is unbeaten Majestic City, who may be second choice at 5-2 on the morning line but is No. 1 for his San Diego connections. The Kentucky-bred son of City Zip, a $180,000 purchase at the Ocala, Fla., sale in March, Majestic City is trained by Peter Miller, a longtime Carlsbad resident, and owned by the Bloom Racing Stable LLC headed by Jeff Bloom of Oceanside. Among the eight partners with Bloom in Majestic City are San Diego County residents David and Sylvia Batchelder and Rob Keen.
Majestic City won his racing debut at Hollywood Park on May 21 and followed that with stakes victories in the Willard Proctor Memorial on June 12 and the Grade III Hollywood Juvenile Championship on July 17. The chestnut colt has been favored in all three, never higher than even money, and rewarded backers with victories by 1 ½, 3 ½ and 2 ¼ lengths.
The Hollywood Juvenile was not without high drama. Before the race, Majestic City reared up and fell in the paddock, prompting speculation that he might be scratched. Miller prevailed upon stewards to not make such a decision, however, and after a delay to the start Majestic City covered six furlongs in 1:10 2/5 under jockey David Flores and prevailed.
“I believe that (paddock behavior) really was an isolated incident,” Miller said. “He really hasn't done much wrong ever. He got spooked by some fans waving their programs and cheering right at him and he went backwards and he kind of lost his footing and fell down.
“But, you know, the horse was OK and fortunately the stewards and the state vet could see that and he certainly ran like he was OK.”
Majestic City’s wins have come at progressively longer distances from 4 ½ to six furlongs. The Futurity is an additional eighth of a mile and among the seven rivals Majestic City will face is Best Pal Stakes winner Creative Cause. Miller has reason to believe the distance won’t be a major problem.
The way he won the Hollywood Futurity, really finished up strong the last sixteenth of a mile and galloped out. And the way he's training, I think the seven-eighths is definitely within his scope,” Miller said. “But as is the question with all these young horses, you never know until they actually do it.”
Majestic City is the first major success story for the racing enterprise of Bloom, who formed his own corporation after serving for several years as the West Coast Vice President for nationwide West Point Thoroughbreds.
Bloom said he was taken by Majestic City’s physique and presence at the sale and since has been impressed with the colt’s precociousness.
“He’s mature beyond his age and he’s really got a good mind, really advanced for a 2-year-old,” Bloom said. “He was the first horse we’ve given to Peter and he has done a spectacular job managing his career to this point.”
Miller and Bloom have known each other for decades, dating back to when Miller was a stable hand for training legend Charlie Whittingham and Bloom was an apprentice jockey.
What would it mean for two guys who can call Del Mar their hometown track to win the traditional closing day feature, with its projection of hope for even bigger things to come?
“It would be the ultimate,” Bloom said.
PREVIEW OF A COMING ATTRACTION
The Futurity lineup from the rail out with jockeys and morning line odds set by track handicapper Russ Hudak.
Corsa Di Cavelli (Alonso Quinonez, 20-1); Gun Boat (Martin Pedroza, 8-1); Sheer Talent (Victor Espinoza, 12-1); Majestic City (David Flores, 5-2); Basmati (Garrett Gomez, 8-1); Drill (Martin Garcia, 7-2); Mighty Monsoon (Joe Talamo, 12-1), Creative Cause (Rafael Bejarano, 9-5).
CONNECTIONS OF BANNED HAD A PLAN FOR POST-DERBY
Leonard Lavin, 91, was at his trackside table outside Barn Y as usual Monday morning, prepared to give a concise post-race report on Banned, winner of Sunday’s $250,000, Grade II Del Mar Derby.
“The horse is fine, the owner is fine and the trainer gained five pounds,” said Lavin, patriarch of Glen Hill Farm and former head of the Alberto-Culver Company.
Lavin said he was “too old” to recall his emotions during the stretch run of the Derby, in which Banned nosed out Midnight Interlude for the victory. But companions at the table said Lavin’s first words after the race were “I want to get down to that damned winner’s circle.”
Anticipating the outcome, friends and family had the elevator standing by and cleared paths through a crowd of 36,343 on-track for Lavin to make it to the winner’s circle for Glen Hill Farm’s third Derby victory. The previous ones had been with Right Honorable in 1973 and Relaunch in 1979.
Banned’s late surge after being headed by Midnight Interlude prevented the latter’s trainer, Bob Baffert, from a second Derby victory to go with that of Anet in 1997. Midnight Interlude came out of the race fine.
“He (Midnight Interlude) ran great, we were so proud of him. He just got beat by a very good horse,” Baffert said Monday. “I was really disappointed when I heard that horse (Banned) was coming here. I thought ‘Oh, man.’
“But I know Mr. Lavin likes Del Mar, he wanted to win the Del Mar Derby and he won it.”
Trainer Tom Proctor said after the race that Banned would be shipped to Santa Anita. Midnight Interlude is also headed for the site of his Santa Anita Derby victory.
JOCKEY AND TRAINER RACES AT A GLANCE
Jockeys – Joel Rosario (45 wins); Sunday (4) Regal Betty (3rd, $5.80), St Trinians (4th, $3.80), Norm’s Passion (6th, $8.00), Golden Bounty (7th, $9.80. Monday, mounts in all 10 races. Joe Talamo (40 wins); Sunday (1) Magic School (1st, $5.60). Monday, mounts in all races except the first and tenth.
Trainers – Mike Mitchell (25 wins); Sunday (1) St Trinians (4th, $3.80) Monday, scheduled starters in races 2 (Rainbow Luck, 9-2 and Glory Pride , 3-1) and 10 (Low Gear Power, 3-1). John Sadler (20 wins); Sunday, (1) Regal Betty (3rd, $5.80). Monday, scheduled starters in races 2 (Entabeni, 6-1), 3 (Stoney Fleece, 4-1), 4 (One Magical Girl, 7-2) and 7 (Home Sweet Aspen, 8-5).