Carl Hilliard | Crest Road
Forty-six years after a lack of interest pulled up the reins on fall horse racing, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (DMTC) is willing to give it another go. When they open the track for the month of November, will racing fans come?
|Cartoon Steve Crothers. Click on image to enlarge.
A lot has changed since the track discontinued fall racing in 1968. Our population has nearly tripled. The beach communities close by the track no longer shutter at the end of summer. And Del Mar has fresh and appealing amenities, including a new grandstand and a newly widened turf track.
Del Mar also has a new website – delmarscene.com – designed for a younger audience. It has a new slogan, Cool as Ever, created to bridge the gap between longtime racing aficionados and those new to it. And thanks to president and general manager Joe Harper and his marketing team, Del Mar has received positive reviews for its updated entertainment experience that includes new events to attract the population’s changing tastes.
For example, the new fall meet, called the Bing Crosby season, will open with a vintage Hollywood-style fashion contest on Friday, November 7. The meet will also include special events, such as the Tuesday Trivia contest on the DMTC’s Facebook page.
But marketing and events aside, the real draw will – or won’t – be the horses. To counter an outward migration of horses from California, Del Mar created a “Ship and Win” program. The program pays out-of-state shippers a bonus to run their horses at Del Mar. So instead of hoofing it out of the golden state, more horses have been shipped in. The best part of that equation is that many of them have remained here.
This first fall season carries with it more than hopes of resurgence for turning one of the premier racetracks in the country with the best summer racing in the West into a contender for exciting, crowd-drawing fall racing. The Breeders’ Cup, the World Series of horse racing with more than $13 million in purses and awards over two days of racing, is scheduled to be held at Del Mar in 2017.
Even though the buzz puts horse racing in decline, supported by lower attendance and amount bet during this past summer at Del Mar, those who love the sport or are invested in it have their fingers crossed that the Bing Crosby season shows the horse-racing world Del Mar has what it takes.