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Del Mar’s summer race meet returns July 16

Rock Your World
Rock Your World, who won the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby on April 3, is among the possible candidates for the Grade I TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 21.
(Kelley Carlson)

Del Mar is back on track toward a return to normalcy.

After running last summer and fall without crowds because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the track will welcome back fans for its 82nd season. The summer meet will run July 16 through Sept. 6.

The seaside oval is offering 100 percent capacity for racegoers in its seating areas throughout the facility, which totals 14,994.

At this time, racing officials are emphasizing that seats must be purchased in advance at dmtc.com -- there is no general admission, and walk-ups are not permitted. Prices vary depending on seating location and day of the week, and Diamond Club discounts are available for Stretch Run Reserved Seating. Parking passes are included with seat purchase and will not be sold at entrance gates. Also, the infield will be closed to public access.

However, Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions, said officials are optimistic that they may be able to offer full admission options sometime later this summer.

“We will continue to monitor public health guidelines and adjust our plans as the state makes additional progress and updates its recommendations,” Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (DMTC) President and Chief Operating Officer Josh Rubinstein said in a statement last month.

As stated on the Del Mar website, “the State of California strongly recommends that all individuals be fully vaccinated, obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to attending the event, or wear a face covering,” and that “face coverings are strongly recommended for unvaccinated guests.” Attendees should keep an eye on the site, as protocols are updated frequently and subject to change. Social distancing is still encouraged, hand sanitizing stations have been added throughout the grandstand area, and some transactions (ticketing, restaurant, concession) are now cashless.

More stakes races and new faces

This year, Del Mar will offer 34 stakes races — up two from last year - worth a total of $6.75 million.

“This is one of the strongest stakes schedules in Del Mar’s history,” Del Mar’s racing secretary, David Jerkens, said in a statement. “We have increased purses virtually across the board. I am really excited to see the level of quality our stakes program will attract, especially being the home of the Breeders’ Cup this year.”

The 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships is scheduled for Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar, during the fall meet. It will be the second time the seaside oval has hosted the event; the first time was in 2017.

The track’s signature race - the Grade I TVG Pacific Classic - will be held Aug. 21, with four additional stakes that day: the Grade I Del Mar Oaks, the Grade II Del Mar Handicap, the Grade II Del Mar Mile and the Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes.

“It’s one of the best racing cards you will see year-round across the country,” said Mac McBride, director of media.

According to McBride, potential candidates for the TVG Pacific Classic include Hot Rod Charlie, who hit the board in two jewels of racing’s Triple Crown this spring (the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes); Rock Your World, winner of the Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby; South American import Royal Ship, who has found success in California under the guidance of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella; Mo Mosa, recent victor of a Grade III stakes in Texas; and Grade I Dubai World Cup hero Mystic Guide.

The track will likely see an uptick in the average number of shippers this year, some of it attributed to the Breeders’ Cup. McBride noted that some trainers may send their contenders to Del Mar this summer to get a feel for the surfaces and plan subsequent starts accordingly. The seaside oval will also present five Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races, all of which give their winners automatic admittance and entry fees to corresponding Breeders’ Cup races.

McBride said a sampling of the out-of-state trainers who plan to send strings of 10-20 horses to race at Del Mar this summer include Michael Maker, Mark Casse, Molly Pearson, Ron Moquette and Todd Fincher.

The jockey colony will also gain a new member this year with “Jersey Joe” Bravo, a leading rider in the Garden State for about 20 years. Bravo has won numerous championships at Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands. He has previously ridden at Del Mar for individual assignments, including back-to-back wins in the Grade III Jimmy Durante Stakes (2017 and 2018), but this will be his first time staying for an entire meet.

Fans will also notice there are two apprentice female jockeys on the roster - Jessica Pyfer and Emily Ellingwood. Both made their debuts on the Southern California circuit during the pandemic last year.

While there are some fresh faces on the scene, there will be plenty of familiar ones, too. Races will once again be called by Trevor Denman, who took a hiatus last year. The announcer opted to shelter in place with his wife, Robin, at their Minnesota farm to ride out the pandemic.

“We are very keen to get back to Del Mar,” Denman recently wrote in an e-mail to a track official.

Bettor opportunities

There will be new takes on two of Del Mar’s betting options. The $2 Pick Six has been renamed the “Rainbow Pick Six” and will instead be a 20-cent ticket. Also, the “Super High 5” will be changed from $1 to 50 cents. Traditional win, place and show wagers will continue to be offered, along with the various combinations presented during previous seasons.

“We’re excited about the large wagering pools the ‘Rainbow Pick Six’ will generate,” said Del Mar’s director of mutuels, Bill Navarro. “The 20-cent minimum gives small- and mid-level players the ability to spread deep throughout the card.”

The “Rainbow Pick Six” will pay out 70 percent of the pool each day to those with the most winners and the remaining 30 percent will carry over, provided there are no single-ticket winners.

Horseplayers looking for winning tips can tune in to “Best Bet” at 11 a.m. Sundays on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Veteran handicapper Frank Scatoni and a guest will analyze cards and single out their picks during the weekly show.

Those who want to take their skills to the next level can sign up for the free, season-long “Beach Boss” contest. Players receive $100 in fictional money to be played in any combination of win, place or show on a designated race each day, and must wager on a minimum number of races throughout the season to be eligible for prizes. The primary goal is to beat journalist Ray Paulick, although bettors can sign up to play against friends, as well. They can tune in to watch Paulick and a challenger discuss picks each Friday on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The top bettor at the end of the season will receive two VIP Breeders’ Cup tickets valued at $1,000, and the top 20 players will receive Del Mar-themed prizes. Enter at dmtc.com/contest.

Serious horseplayers have the opportunity to test their skills in three high-end handicapping contests:

July 24 - LRF Cares Handicapping Challenge: This contest can be played at the track or through TVG.com. From the $500 buy-in, $250 goes toward a live bankroll, and the remaining $250 is designated for the prize pool and donation to the nonprofit LRF Cares. The organization provides care for Little Red Feather partnership-owned horses after their racing careers are over. Bettors wager $50 or more on five Del Mar races. Prizes include entry to the National Horseplayer Championship (NHC), Del Mar Handicapping Challenge and Pacific Classic Betting Challenge.

July 31-Aug. 1: Del Mar Handicapping Challenge: Up to two entries per person are permitted for this on-track contest. From the $4,000 buy-in, $3,000 is for the live bank roll and $1,000 goes into the prize pool. Expected prizes include five 2021 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries at Del Mar, and NHC seats.

Aug. 21: Pacific Classic Betting Challenge: This event will be held at the track and at TVG.com, and also permits up to two entries. It’s a $5,000 buy-in - $3,500 will be used for the live bankroll, and $1,500 will be deposited into the prize pool. Additional details will be announced soon.

For more information on the handicapping contests, contact Bahr at chris@dmtc.com or go to dmtc.com.

Wine and Dine

Social event offerings at the track are limited at this time and may possibly be added throughout the season, but one confirmed to be returning is the Uncorked Wine Festival. More than 100 wines from around the world will be available for patrons 21 and older to select and sip, and can be paired with fare from gourmet food trucks on site. The festival is set from 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 14, with admission ranging from $25 to $85. The price includes seats and parking, and a portion of the proceeds go toward Urban Surf 4 Kids (US4K.org). Go to uncorkedwinefestivals.com or dmtc.com.

Taste of the Turf Club will also be back on Sundays, where guests are treated to a three-course brunch from a “locally inspired menu” and bottomless mimosas, Aperol spritzes or bloody Marys. Along with the food and beverages, the $100 fee includes a four-seat Turf Club table and admission, and parking. Go to dmtc.com.

Finally, for those desiring a more casual dining experience, the “30-for-20” deal will again be offered, which allows people to buy $30 of scrip for $20 that can be used for food and beverages.

Del Mar racetrack 2021 season

• Dates: July 16-Sept. 6

• Location: Via de la Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard

• Post time: 2 p.m. Thursdays (starting July 29), Saturdays and Sundays; 4 p.m. Fridays (special first posts at 2 p.m. July 16, and 3:30 p.m. Aug. 27 and Sept. 3); 2 p.m. Labor Day (Sept. 6)

• Admission (includes parking): $10-$16 Stretch Run ($20 Pacific Classic Day); $13-$18 Clubhouse ($23 Pacific Classic Day)

• Information: (858) 755-1141, dmtc.com


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