Key facts to keep you on track at Del Mar
July 18, 2017 3:00 AM
by Jon Lindo
Here’s what you need to know when playing at Del Mar.
Break out the sun screen, the flip flops, and your best Hawaiian shirt. Del Mar opens on Wednesday, and if you plan to play, here are some key facts that may help you leave the track with something more than a sunburn.
Del Mar has increased the banking on their main track from four to five degrees to match the banking at Santa Anita. Walking the track last weekend, the far outside of the main track appears to be two to three feet higher than last year. That banking may help closers keep their momentum coming out of the far turn. It will pay to watch closely opening week.
Del Mar has hired Dennis Moore as their new track maintenance superintendent, replacing Steve Wood. Moore is also head man at Santa Anita, so expect the main track to play very similar to Santa Anita since it is also composed of the same “El Segundo Sand.”
If you are looking for longshots, you may want to try the turf sprint races at Del Mar. Favorites won just 25% of the turf sprints in 2015 and included several longshot payoffs. That trend continued in 2016 as favorites were just 3-for-25 sprinting on the Del Mar grass. Included in those samples were win payoffs of $95.40, $50.40, $85.50, and several others at over $40.
For the horseplayers, Del Mar has added a new infield video board that will have capabilities to use split screens like many of the top racebooks in Nevada. Clarity had been a problem recently with the bright summer sun.
Here are some interesting stats regarding some very prominent and not-so-prominent trainers in regards to starters at Del Mar thanks to Daily Racing Form’s Formulator program:
Everyone knows Bob Baffert trains the best horse in the world in Arrogate, is loaded in every Stakes division, and will likely unveil many talented and expensive two-year-olds at Del Mar. Not everyone knows that when a Baffert-trained runner has been let go at double digit odds at Del Mar he is 0-for-50 since 2012. He is also winless on the turf (20 starts) since 2013.
Richard Baltas is the only trainer who has generated a flat-bet profit each of the last five summer meets.
With turf racing at a premium, trainer Phil D’Amato was the leading trainer at the 2016 summer meet (23 wins) by notching 17 wins on the grass. Baltas was a distant second with 10 victories.
The low profile Adam Kitchingman stable has won with six of 16 (37.5%) two-year-old first-time starters at Del Mar since 2012.
Looking for a longshot? Trainer Gary Sherlock has 11 wins from 99 starters since 2013, but four of those winners paid $43.60, $62.80, $74.20, and $108.60.
Del Mar is the only track on the SoCal thoroughbred circuit that takes the Place Pick All wager. Quinella wagering is also available. What you will not find is an early Pick Four.
Del Mar also uses the Jackpot format for the $2 Pick Six, meaning 70% of the pool will be distributed to those with six winners, 15% of the pool will be distributed to tickets with five winners, and the remaining 15% of the pool will go to a single ticket winner in the Pick Six and will carry over otherwise. New this summer is that there will be two mandatory payout days – Pacific Classic Day on Saturday, Aug. 19 and closing day Monday, Sept. 4.
If everything goes right, champion Arrogate is scheduled to compete in the Grade II San Diego Handicap this Saturday as a prep for his appearance in the Grade I Pacific Classic on Aug. 19. Top fillies Stellar Wind and Vale Dori could show up in the Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes on Sunday, July 30, and Breeders Cup Sprint champion Drefong is scheduled to make his 2017 debut in the Grade I Bing Crosby on Saturday, July 29.
And you never know when a leading Breeders Cup Juvenile and/or Juvenile Fillies contender will make an appearance this summer. Those discoveries are part of the appeal of Del Mar.
Mike Smith won’t get enough mounts to be leading rider, but he is odds-on to top all jockeys in purse earnings as regular pilot for Arrogate, Drefong, Songbird, and Unique Bella among others.
Flavien Prat and apprentice Evin Roman ended in a dead-heat for top rider at the Santa Anita Spring/Summer meet, and with Roman riding for barns like Hollendorfer, Baffert, Miller, and Doug O’Neill, the young jockey could have a big say in his very first Del Mar campaign. He has nine mounts on opening day.
First post time opening day is 2 p.m. Don’t forget to re-apply your sun screen as needed.
Play of the Week
Del Mar this Wednesday Race 2 – Pedro Cerrano (No. 1). Trainer Peter Miller always points to the Del Mar meet as he lives in nearby Carlsbad. Pedro Cerrano is unbeaten at Del Mar, runs very well fresh, and the Miller stable is able to protect him from being claimed coming back from a layoff. Look for Pedro Cerrano to hit a home run opening day at Del Mar.