Examining Del Mar without track bias

Jul 17, 2018 3:00 AM

The annual Del Mar summer racing season, which begins this Wednesday, resembles the eastern Saratoga summer season. Both race meets are annually loaded with top quality horses, jockeys, trainers and challenges for racing fans.

Last week, I provided a few practical clues linked to Belmont Park’s stakes races that can help players deal with Saratoga’s high caliber racing programs. Shifting focus to Del Mar, here is a similarly potent, straight-forward handicapping idea horseplayers should take seriously:

I have found it profitable to accent previous winners from prior Del Mar seasons over horses in good form coming from Santa Anita and Los Alamitos.

I have also seen a “track bias” favoring early speed emerge on many Del Mar racing days. This, of course, can tilt my handicapping in that direction whenever such a bias on Del Mar’s main dirt track seems to be in play. On the turf course, as hinted in the prior paragraph, I give a few points extra credit to horses with good previous form on the course against newcomers to the course. Otherwise, I tend to favor horses dropping a notch in class.

Beyond those rudimentary but important handicapping factors, horseplayers should realize both Del Mar and Saratoga are designed to be coming-out-parties for newly minted 2-year-olds. Frankly, I have found picking winners in 2-year-old maiden, allowance races and stakes is invariably linked to trainers who tend to develop potential contenders for next season’s Triple Crown events. For one brightly shining example, it is difficult to get into any series of races for 2-year-olds without taking a long hard look at horses trained by Bob Baffert.

To proceed further and give players some basic info about the 2018 Del Mar season, here are two lists: One spells out Del Mar’s basic costs and contact info; the other focuses on the meet’s most important stakes.

Del Mar consumer facts: Del Mar’s 79th racing season will cover 36 racing days beginning tomorrow, July 18 and will run through Monday, Labor Day, Sept. 3. Aside from that Labor Day program, the track will be dark on all other Mondays and Tuesdays.

• First Post will be 2 p.m. every day, except Fridays when it will be 4 p.m., excluding the final two Fridays when it will be 3:30 p.m. There will be Early Bird Wagering, every racing day – on track only – from 9 to 10 a.m.

• While opening day admission prices range from $15 to $30, normal admission prices range from $3 to $6 and $5-$10 for the Clubhouse. All active military are admitted free as are kids in the company of a parent or guardian.

• Clubhouse reserve seats are priced between $5 and $8 on weekdays and range between $10 and $30 for Opening Day and Pacific Classic Day (Aug. 18). Restaurant tables may be reserved at a cost starting at $60 to as much as $200 for special racing days and holidays. More clubhouse dining info can be obtained by calling (858) 792-4242.

For more info about any aspect of Del Mar’s 2018 racing season, consider calling (858) 793-5533. The track also operates a full service website: www.delmarracing.com.

To get a fix on how strong the 2018 Del Mar season will be, here is a glimpse at the track’s rich and varied stakes schedule.

In addition to the six stakes below that will be run during Del Mar’s first week, 35 more stakes for horses in every racing division from 2-year-olds to older horses on dirt and turf worth more than $7.3 million. Nineteen of this summer’s stakes will be on grass, 22 on the main dirt track.

Opening week stakes: Wednesday, July 18, $100K Oceanside at 1-mile on the turf for 3-year-olds.

Friday, July 20, $75K Osunitas at 1-1/16 miles on turf for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up.

Saturday, July 21, $200K, Grade-2 San Diego Handicap at 1-1/16 miles, 3-year-olds and up; $200K, Grade-2 San Clemente Stakes at 1-mile on turf, 3-year-old fillies.

Sunday, July 22, $250K, Grade-2 Eddie Read Stakes, 1-1/8 miles on turf, 3-year-olds and up; $75K Wickerr Stakes, 1-mile on turf, 3-year-olds and up.

Grade 1 stakes: Saturday, July 28, $300K Bing Crosby at 6 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up.

Sunday, July 29, $300K Clemente Hirsch, 1-1/16 miles, for 3-year-olds and up, fillies and mares.

Saturday, Aug. 18, $1million Pacific Classic at 1-1/4 miles, 3-year-olds and up; $300K Del Mar Oaks at 1-1/8 miles on turf, 3-year-old fillies.

Saturday, Sept. 1, $300K Del Mar Debutante at 7-furlongs for 2-year-old fillies.

Monday Sept. 3, $300K Del Mar Futurity at 7 furlongs for 2-year-olds.

Added Notes: The top Beyer Figure scored in last Saturday’s stakes was by Voodoo Song, 102 in the one-mile Forbidden Apple on the turf at Belmont Park. The best Figure scored at the 2017 Del Mar meet was by Collected in the Pacific Classic. Several horses who finished behind him also earned triple digit Beyers.