Field size at Del Mar will make bettors happy, but with new rules will they hold
June 27, 2017 3:06 AM
by Jon Lindo
Del Mar will open its summer meet on Wednesday, July 19, a day that will be celebrated by horseplayers all around the country. Much of the appeal is the expectation of top quality racing, more turf races, and larger fields.
There is nothing more important to us horseplayers than field size. Big fields offer wagering value, not only in the win/place/show pools, but even more so in the horizontal and vertical exotic wagers.
With this important factor in mind, I found it very disturbing to see a new revised outline for a Cal-bred race in the first condition book for Del Mar (a condition book is the book of races scheduled to be run over a period of time at a specific track and is used by trainers, owners, and jockey agents to line up races for their horses).
Race 5 in Condition book 1 for Del Mar for Friday, July 21 states the following conditions:
Five Furlongs (Turf)
Purse $62,000. For California Bred or California Sired Three Year Olds and Upward Which Have Never Won $10,000 Once Other Than Maiden, Claiming, Or Starter Or Which Have Never Won Two Races or Claiming Price $20,000.
Those are the normal conditions for a Cal-bred Allowance/Optional Claiming race in So Cal. However, the following line has been added to the condition:
Horses that are entered for the claiming price are running for a purse of $35,000.
How can one set of horses run for a different purse structure than another set of horses in the same race?
The purse discrimination creates the following negative incentives in regards to creating full fields:
• Negative incentive for horsemen to enter claiming eligible horses in the Cal-bred Allowance/Optional Claiming races due to reduced purses.
• Negative incentive for owners to spend money to claim horses to run in those same races due to the lower possible return on investment.
• Less probable inventory available to fill out the fields.
There was no prior notice given by Del Mar or the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association to owners or trainers in regards to the new purse conditions.
Field size drives handle. Handle leads to increased purses. Increased purses leads to more demand for both young horses and older claimers. It is a win for the horseplayer, the breeder, the owner, and the racetrack operators.
I believe this new race condition is sending the wrong message to the owners who put up the money to participate in this sport. And any rule that discriminates against one segment of the industry while not affecting others can’t be good for the overall health of the business. It will simply chase more horsemen out of the business and/or send them to other states where there is a level playing field. Good luck filling out those fields if there are no owners to foot the bills for horses to participate.
Since the implementation of three-days-a-week racing in early June, the field sizes at Santa Anita have risen from 7.29 horses per race to 8.28. With closing week starting on Friday and five straight days of racing thru closing day on the 4th of July, it will be interesting to see just how the field sizes hold up.
Since Del Mar will run five days a week starting with their opening day Wednesday, July 19, I am sure they will be watching how busy the entry box is, too.
Going into the final five days of the meet, it could pay dividends to keep a close eye on the jockeys battling for leading rider. Flavien Prat leads with 34 wins, and filed an appeal of a suspension that would have kept him from riding July 1-4 in an effort to secure the riding title. He will ride throughout closing week.
Apprentice Evin Roman has improved by leaps and bounds during the spring, and with four wins last Sunday he is just one win behind with 33 for the Spring/Summer meet.
Joe Talamo (32 wins) and Rafael Bejarano (31 wins) are close enough to win the title as well, so you should get full value for your wagering dollar on these four riders during closing week.
And for those inclined, there is a single ticket Pick Six Jackpot carryover of $285,071 going into Friday’s card. It could make for a very interesting closing 4th of July card should that single ticket jackpot carryover until closing day.
Play of the Day
Santa Anita, Friday Race 6 – Midnight Pleasure (2). Huge son of Breeders Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute snapped to life in dirt sprint May 27, and now makes first start after being gelded. He should fall into a nice stalking trip, and the jockey/trainer tandem of Sutherland/Ruis pulled a 9/1 upset last Sunday with Rockport Babe.