This past weekend records were dropping faster at Del Mar than Joe Frazier facing George Foreman for the WBA, WBC, and the Ring heavyweight championships in Jamaica way back in 1973. For those of you unfamiliar with that fight, check it out on YouTube. Ouch.
Here is a recap of the many highwater marks set at Del Mar:
2018 Pacific Classic winner Accelerate wins by a record 12-1/2 lengths. The John Sadler trainee looked like too much horse for the field. After pressing the pace from the favorable outside, he cut loose entering the far turn to open a daylight lead and kept extending the margin through the stretch in a dominating performance. Accelerate earned a career best Beyer Speed Figure of 115 for his victory and will likely have one more prep – the Awesome Again Stakes (formerly Goodwood Stakes) at Santa Anita – prior to shipping to Churchill Downs for the Breeders Cup Classic.
Del Mar set a record handle for a non-Breeders Cup card. Saturday’s all sources handle of $25,969,128 bested the previous one-day record of $25,126,232 set on Pacific Classic day in 2016. Over $16 million of that total was bet out of state, a sure sign the rain that continues to plague Saratoga has horseplayers looking for other options. The large field sizes (average over 8.8 horses per race) at Del Mar and deep competition have been noticed around the country and horseplayers are responding.
Nobody was able to hit the early Pick Five on Saturday, leading to a record carryover of $755,777. With the 14 percent takeout in effect, horseplayers pushed another record $5,056,660 through the windows for a total early Pick Five pool record of $5,842,438.
Jockey Drayden Van Dyke tied Victor Espinoza’s record as the only jockey to win seven races in one day when he won with seven of his eight mounts on Sunday (his only other mount finished second). Espinoza did it in September 2006.
To top off the weekend, Del Mar announced last Friday they have been named host of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Considering the excellent Breeders’ Cup experience when Del Mar limited crowd size in their inaugural hosting assignment, getting another chance was a no brainer.
Why 14 percent Takeout Players Pick Five was created: One of the best programs operated by Del Mar each summer is bringing interns in from places like the University of Arizona Racetrack Industry Program to learn the operations of a major racetrack. There are interns in the Racing Office, on the backstretch, working with veterinarians, and even a couple in the Del Mar press box to help distribute information for those like me still covering horse racing on a daily basis.
Press box intern Jeff Furmanski loves the game and likes to make a wager from time to time. With the huge early Pick Five carryover on Saturday, Jeff and his mom decided to split a $16 ticket.
After the first four legs of the Pick Five, they were alive to two runners – 17/1 shot No. 1 Magical Gray and 6/1 shot No. 6 Colonel Power. Jeff looked a bit pale when he realized he was alive for a five figure payoff to Magical Gray and just under five figures to Colonel Power. As the horses were loading into the gate, however, Colonel Power became very fractious and got his front legs up over the front of the gate. The gate crew unloaded him, and when the vet checked out Colonel Power behind the gate he was announced as a late scratch.
On track in southern California, when using bet cards or the self-serve machines, you are able to mark an alternate selection should one of your horses become a late scratch. Jeff did not fill out an alternate, so he was assigned the post time favorite – No. 12 Tantara, who won.
When all was said and done, Jeff and his mom turned $16 into $4,687, which of course was just below the 300/1 threshold that would have required a signature for the IRS.
Being fortunate enough to be able to play races every day, sometimes the feeling of making a nice score gets lost. Watching Furmanski take down the Pick Five via a late scratch is a good reminder of what my colleague Richie Saber always says – You may be walking around lucky and not even know it.
Del Mar Notes: Champion filly Unique Bella was retired last Saturday after suffering a chip fracture of a sesamoid in a workout at Del Mar. She is not in a life-threatening situation and the daughter of Tapit will get every chance to become a top broodmare.
I think the stewards got another call right on Sunday when they disqualified Fly to Mars from second to third for impeding Sharp Samurai in the stretch of the Del Mar Mile.
Play of the Week: Del Mar, Wednesday, Race 6 – Thermopolis (No. 3). Hot trainer Phil D’Amato’s gelding proved again he loves the Del Mar turf when he bested Maidens despite traffic trouble July 27. He can come right back and beat winners with clear sailing over his favorite surface.