Listen to me, Del mar

Listen to me, Del mar

August 08, 2017 3:00 AM


Week 3 of Del Mar is now in the books, and there were some old and new ideas that popped up that may deserve some reconsideration.

First the old

Leonard Lavin, founder of Glen Hill Farm, passed away last Wednesday at the age of 97. He had his first winner back in 1967 and over the years his orange, white, and black silks were carried to Stakes victories over 30 times at Del Mar alone. Horses like Convenience, Relaunch, Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint winner One Dreamer, Header Card, Marketing Mix, and Global View are just a few of the quality horses to represent Glen Hill Farm over the years. Mr. Lavin has a home in Rancho Santa Fe and supported Del Mar with regularity for 50 years.

The day after his passing, Glen Hill Farm’s West Coast bias shipped to Del Mar and won a Maiden Special Weight. During the winner’s circle presentation, I was surprised there was no recognition of his passing or any mention of appreciation for Glen Hill Farm’s support over the years. When asked, Del Mar officials said it is not their policy to recognize that sort of thing.

Maybe it’s time to change that position.

Glen Hill Farm came back to Del Mar this year after skipping the 2016 meet due to concerns about track condition. When it comes to decision time as to where they should compete in the summer of 2018, I think knowing Del Mar appreciates the commitment to ship across country to support their program may have been a great selling tool. Quality horses and quality people are a scarce resource these days.

Now the new

Sunday’s first race was a standard Cal-bred Allowance/Optional $20k claiming route, the kind of race that has been standard on the SoCal circuit for years. However, it was noted in Sunday’s program that the horses entered for the Optional $20,000 claiming price (there were three – Old Man Lake, Freddies Dream, and Senator Robert) were racing for a $35,000 purse. The horses entered for the Allowance condition (Que Chistoso and Plain Wrap) were racing for a $62,000 purse. Freddies Dream won the race and $21,000 as opposed to a possible $37,200 to the winner had one of the Allowance horses won.

The argument from Del Mar is they are looking for ways to manage purses at a time when they are battling an overpayment (paying out purses at a higher rate than the handle producing the purse revenue has generated).

Here are the reasons I believe horses running in the same race should run for the same purse:

More horses eligible to race makes for greater field size, better betting races, and more handle. It is a better proposition for the wagering public and the race track bottom line, which in turn helps drive the revenue to fund the purse in the first place.

If the breeders truly do not want to pay the same purse to the Optional Claiming horses, have the tracks write the races as Allowance only with no Optional Claimer. In the case last Sunday, the two-horse field would have meant the race simply would not have been used and those horses would still be sitting in the barn.

If owners complain about the claiming horses coming in and winning those races, here’s an idea: Claim the horse you can’t beat! They are for sale.

Maybe Del Mar can use the $16,200 in saved purses to fix the Turf Club elevator that has been broken since opening day.

Week 3 notes

Interesting note from Daily Racing Form’s Brad Free: Favorites are just 2-for-23 in one mile turf races thru Sunday.

Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr., who fired his agent/brother Nelson two weeks ago and is currently representing himself, did not bother to show up for his only mount on Thursday for trainer John Shirreffs. Arroyo appears to have plenty of off track problems right now.

Is this Fake News? In last Friday’s second race, Marvelous Kaos took a bad step and was pulled up around the far turn. Jockey Tiago Pereira did a great job getting the injured horse pulled up safely. When watching the replays to see what happened, the tape was edited so there was no indication any horse got hurt in the race. I understand this policy if a rider goes down or if there is a nasty accident, but this may have been over-cautious. Marvelous Kaos had to be euthanized due to his injury.

There have been just two fatalities so far at Del Mar, one on turf and one on dirt, a major improvement over 2016. However, veterinarians report a number of soft tissue injuries (bowed tendons) on the main track, suggesting the surface is very deep and loose. That theory plays out during the races where it is very hard to pass horses in the stretch and times are slow. Getting traction to accelerate has been a problem.

There were five 2-year-old Maiden Special Weight races run last week at Del Mar. There was not one entry from the Bob Baffert stable. Strange that the barn with so many well-bred top notch juveniles had no runners in any of the Maiden races.

After going winless for nearly two weeks, trainer Peter Miller won three races over the weekend. The barn may be heating up.

Play of the Week

Wednesday, race 4 – Love Winning (8 post). Three-year-old filly has blossomed of late, winning two straight while working her way up the ladder. Look for her to take another step up on Wednesday.