As the 80th Del Mar summer season approached, there was concern for, and by, Racing Secretary David Jerkens regarding producing 36 cards and keeping the track running on a five-day-a-week basis from mid-July to Labor Day.
Santa Anita lost 24 racing days in the name of safety or not having enough horses to race four days a week. Los Alamitos cancelled three racing days of its three-week meet due to a lack of entries.
As the 80th Del Mar summer season nears its end on Monday, and with the last of 36 programs in the books on Friday, Jerkens can relax a little and look back on what some thought it would take a miracle to accomplish.
“I don't know about that (miracle),” Jerkens said Saturday morning. “I think that a lot of people were eager to support Del Mar this summer. And I definitely appreciate all the participation and cooperation.
“Obviously, you'd like to offer a better product to horse players. That's the most important thing. What we accomplished last year would be hard to match. We knew that going in. But we did everything we could to put out the best product we could this summer.”
The numbers won't be finalized until after the last race ends on Monday. But Jerkens, in his sixth year as racing secretary, estimates that the average field size will be around eight per race, a decrease from the 8.8 of 2018 but creditable.
“It's not up to Del Mar's standards of the past five years,” Jerkens conceded. “But it's still a healthy number at the end of the day.”
There will be 21 fewer races overall than last year, Jerkens said. Initially, the projection was for 30 fewer. That was dropped to 26 partway through the meet.
“I thought from Pacific Classic Day on through the last couple weeks of the meet it felt like the Del Mar of old,” Jerkens said. “In terms of the field sizes and quality. The comparisons of week six weren't much different from a year ago and I think week seven will be the same.
“I think people are adapting to the new climate, the changes that have been made. Sometimes it takes a while for everybody to understand the new realities of what we're facing.”
Jerkens had praise for Director of Track Maintenance Dennis Moore and Turf Course/Grounds Superintendent Leif Dickinson for their upkeep of the main track and the Jimmy Durante Turf Course. And praise for the work of Executive Vice President, Racing Tom Robbins and the racing office staff.
“But it all comes down to the owners and trainers supporting you at the entry box,” Jerkens said. “I think the number of shippers we had for the stakes races was encouraging. The 'Ship And Win' numbers will be up from a year ago and that's a vital component in the success of our meet.”
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