The big Sunday program that showcased a pair of Grade II features and was topped by the 22nd edition of the track’s signature race, the $1-million TVG Pacific Classic won by the 3-year-old eastern invader Dullahan – drew 34,482 and registered a bet total of $22,363,307, the seventh highest single-day figure in track history. Those numbers presented a 23.4% rise in handle over 2011 and a 17.8% jump over last year’s attendance.
For the second-to-last full week of the session on-track handle digits rose 27.5%, while the overall betting numbers were up 16.9%. Through six full weeks of sport at the seaside oval, the on-track numbers were up 16.2% over 2011 (a daily average of $2,395,346 this year as opposed to $2,061,273 last year) and the overall betting numbers were up 8.1% ($12,019,469 daily average in 2012 vs. $11,122,904 in 2011).
“With six weeks now in the books,” said Del Mar’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, Mike Ernst, “we can confidently say that there will be a substantial retroactive purse payment for everyone who earns overnight purse money at this meeting. And that goes forward all the way to the end of the meet.”
Attendance numbers went on the positive side for the fifth week in a row also, rising 5.9% for the week. Though the overall attendance figures after six weeks are at a minus 1.5%, it is noted that that the positive change again reflects well from an early-season attendance downswing that went above 6%. After 30 days, crowds for 2012 are averaging 18,209 a day as opposed to 2011’s number of 18,492.
Field size per race at the conclusion of 30 days and 260 races moved upward once more, clicking in at 8.50 for the current session as opposed to 8.24 last year. The track’s popular and lucrative “Ship and Win” program – which has provided notable rewards to out-of-state horses coming to race at the stand – now shows a 33% increase from the 91 horses who had taken advantage of it in 2011 lined up against the 121 who have cashed in this year.
The track’s once-tight jockey race now has seen Rafael Bejarano put daylight between himself and his two chief challengers. The Peruvian rider shows 45 firsts after 30 cards, putting him in the proverbial driver’s seat with only seven days remaining. Next up comes Joe Talamo at 34 firsts and Garrett Gomez with 32.
Trainer Peter Miller has put himself in position to possibly win his first training crown with 18 victories, tying him with the suspended Doug O’Neill. But Miller will have to battle to the finish because behind him are two power-house barns, those of Bob Baffert (16 firsts) and John Sadler (15).
The track will begin its seventh week of racing Wednesday with a standard 2 p.m. first post. Thursday’s card, which normally would consist of eight races, instead this week will have nine, a direct result of the strong activity shown by horsemen at the track’s entry box.
There will be an extra day of racing for the week in conjunction with the Labor Day Monday holiday, then the very final day of the session on Wednesday, September 5.