Edited Del Mar Staff Release — Every year at this time the horse trailers begin arriving at Del Mar, filled with some of the most beautiful and expensive racehorses the world has to offer. This year they began rolling off the I-5 onto Jimmy Durante Blvd and into the stable area Thursday and there’s been a steady flow every day since as Del Mar prepares for its 84th summer of racing.
When it’s all said and done, racing officials expect there to be about 1,950 horses on the grounds during the duration of the meet which begins Friday and continues to September 10. That’s about the same number as last year which set new high water marks for field sizes.
“Seems like you always get some cancelations,” racing secretary David Jerkens says, “or someone doesn’t bring as many horses as they were assigned but I think we’ll be right around that number.”
In 2021 there were 1,980 horses on the grounds at this time and in 2020, the year of COVID, there were 1,810. Jerkens says they like to keep the number at around 2,000.
Glen Hill Farm returns to Del Mar with a string of horses this summer. They raced in Southern California for many years before moving operations back east to Florida. This year they return with what Jerkens calls some serious runners.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of options around the country,” Jerkens says, “and we’re glad they chose us. Last couple years we’ve made an effort to get our stakes schedule and our purse structure out by early March, so we’re thrilled to have Glen Hill back.”
Jerkens also credits the “Ship & Win” program for luring new barns to Del Mar. New trainers at the seaside oval this year include Rohan Crichton from Gulfstream Park and east coast-based Jonathan Thomas. Meanwhile, many trainers, who were new to Del Mar last year, are returning this summer. Todd Fincher, Robertino Diodoro, Jeff Engler and Patrick Biancone return along with the several trainers who send a string of horses down from Northern California.
Del Mar’s average field size was 9.14 in 2022 and, while no official record has been kept over the years, most of the veterans at the track don’t ever remember seeing a number that high. It’s something that Jerkens would love to repeat but he’s looking for something more in 2023.
“It’s more than just field size,” Jerkens says, “it’s quality of stakes races. Last year we saw a bump in field size in stakes races and given the market and what you see around the country, I thought that was pretty remarkable. We had only one day where we had under eight runners a race. It was the Friday after Labor Day, we were off the turf so we had a plethora of scratches.”
Jerkens doesn’t want to tempt fate when talking about last year’s numbers. He realizes it was a special meet.
“When you look into the numbers from last year, everything just kind of fell into place,” Jerkens notes. “That being said, last year is last year. Every meet is different. You have a game plan before the meet. There are just a lot of things that went right last year from a ‘filling races’ standpoint.”