The seal will be broken on the fifth edition of fall racing at Del Mar come Friday afternoon. It is another chapter in a saga centered on the Southern California thoroughbred industry's resolve to carry on after the demise of Hollywood Park through new days at a favored venue for horsemen and fans alike.
And if the fifth chapter reads as well as the first four, that will be fine with the folks in the Del Mar racing office.
“What we have done in the past with this fall meet has set the bar high,” racing secretary David Jerkens said. “We're coming off a strong summer meet and hopefully that momentum will carry over. We'll take it day to day and put out the best cards we can day by day and I think we'll finish strong with the turf stakes at the end of the meeting.
“It's a little different schedule in that we're not ending on Thanksgiving weekend this year. We're ending a week later. So we're kind of spreading out our stakes over two weekends.”
The first three fall sessions here were either 15 (twice) or 20 racing days in length. The 2017 event, 16 days in duration, was unique in that the opening weekend included Del Mar's first hosting of the Breeders' Cup World Championships (it'll be back in 2021) and the track's own complement of stakes races had to be sandwiched in from weeks 2-4.
So the closing weekend slate had three graded stakes on Saturday and three more on Sunday of the closing weekend. This year, the same six stakes will be presented over a five-day period with two each on November 24 and 25 and one apiece on the closing weekend, December 1 and 2.
“The numbers in the horse population and overall activity for the month of October are down. So we're facing some obstacles,” Jerkens said. “But I'm cautiously optimistic that we can once again achieve the level that we have in the past.”
The average field size for the past two years has been 8.5, a worthy goal for 2018. There were 67 entered on the opening day program, an average of 8.3.
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