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Del Mar’s summer race meet returns July 16

Rock Your World
Rock Your World, who won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 3, is among the possible candidates for the Grade I Pacific Classic on Aug. 21 at Del Mar.
(Kelley Carlson)

Del Mar is back on track toward normalcy.

After running last summer and fall without crowds because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the thoroughbred racing track is welcoming back fans for its 82nd season. The summer meet runs Friday, July 16, through Monday, Sept. 6.

The seaside oval is offering 100 percent capacity in its seating areas throughout the facility, totaling 14,994.

Racing officials say that for now, seats must be purchased in advance — there is no general admission, and walk-ups are not permitted. Prices vary depending on seat location and day of the week, and Diamond Club discounts are available for Stretch Run reserved seating. Parking passes are included with seat purchase and will not be sold at entrance gates. Also, the infield will be closed to public access.

Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions, said officials are optimistic they may be able to offer full admission options later this summer.

“We will continue to monitor public health guidelines and adjust our plans as the state makes additional progress and updates its recommendations,” Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President and Chief Operating Officer Josh Rubinstein said in a statement.

The racetrack is set for horses to run at Del Mar in 2019.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

As stated on the Del Mar website, “the state of California strongly recommends that all individuals be fully vaccinated, obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to attending the event or wear a face covering,” and that “face coverings are strongly recommended for unvaccinated guests.”

Officials advise keeping an eye on the website, as protocols are subject to change. Social distancing is still encouraged, hand-sanitizing stations have been added throughout the grandstand area, and some transactions (ticketing, restaurants, concessions) are now cashless.

More stakes races and new faces

Del Mar will offer 34 stakes races this meet — up two from last year — worth a total of $6.75 million.

“This is one of the strongest stakes schedules in Del Mar’s history,” racing secretary David Jerkens said in a statement. “We have increased purses virtually across the board. I am really excited to see the level of quality our stakes program will attract, especially being the home of the Breeders’ Cup this year.”

The 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships are scheduled for Nov. 5-6 at Del Mar, during the track’s fall meet. It will be the second time the venue has hosted the event; the first was in 2017.

Gun Runner (5), ridden by Florent Geroux, wins the Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar racetrack on Nov. 4, 2017.
Gun Runner (5), ridden by Florent Geroux, wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Del Mar racetrack on Nov. 4, 2017. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will return to Del Mar this fall.
(Getty Images)

The track’s signature race — the Grade I Pacific Classic — will be held Saturday, Aug. 21, with four additional stakes that day: the Grade I Del Mar Oaks, Grade II Del Mar Handicap, Grade II Del Mar Mile and Grade III Torrey Pines Stakes.

“It’s one of the best racing cards you will see year-round across the country,” said Mac McBride, director of media.

According to McBride, potential candidates for the Pacific Classic include Hot Rod Charlie, who hit the board in two jewels of racing’s Triple Crown this spring (the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes); Rock Your World, winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Derby; and Mystic Guide, winner of the Grade I Dubai World Cup.

The track likely will see an uptick in the average number of horses shipped in this year, partly because of the Breeders’ Cup. The oval also will present five Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races, all of which give their winners automatic admittance to corresponding Breeders’ Cup races.

The jockey colony will gain a new member this year with “Jersey Joe” Bravo, a leading rider in the Garden State for about 20 years. He has ridden at Del Mar for individual assignments, including back-to-back wins in the Grade III Jimmy Durante Stakes (2017-18), but this will be his first time staying for an entire meet.

Fans also will notice two apprentice female jockeys on the roster — Jessica Pyfer and Emily Ellingwood. Both made their debuts on the Southern California circuit during the pandemic last year.

While there are some fresh faces on the scene, there will be plenty of familiar ones, too. Races will again be called by Trevor Denman, who took a hiatus last year to stay with his wife, Robin, at their Minnesota farm to ride out the pandemic.

“We are very keen to get back to Del Mar,” Denman recently wrote in an email to a track official.

Bettor opportunities

There will be new takes on two of Del Mar’s betting options. The $2 Pick Six has been renamed the Rainbow Pick Six and will instead be a 20-cent ticket. Also, the Super High 5 will be changed from $1 to 50 cents. Traditional win, place and show wagers will continue to be offered, along with the various combinations presented during previous seasons.

“We’re excited about the large wagering pools the Rainbow Pick Six will generate,” said Del Mar’s director of mutuels, Bill Navarro. “The 20-cent minimum gives small and midlevel players the ability to spread deep throughout the card.”

Fans place bets at Del Mar racetrack in July 2019.
(Sam Hodgson / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Rainbow Pick Six will pay out 70 percent of the pool each day to those with the most winners, and the remaining 30 percent will carry over, provided there are no single-ticket winners.

Horseplayers looking for tips can tune in to “Best Bet” at 11 a.m. Sundays on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Veteran handicapper Frank Scatoni and a guest will analyze cards and single out their picks.

Those who want to take their skills to the next level can sign up for the free, season-long “Beach Boss” contest. Players receive $100 in fictional money to be played in any combination of win, place or show on a designated race each day and must wager on a minimum number of races throughout the season to be eligible for prizes. The primary goal is to beat journalist Ray Paulick, although bettors can sign up to play against friends as well. They can tune in to watch Paulick and a challenger discuss picks each Friday on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The top bettor at the end of the season will receive two VIP Breeders’ Cup tickets valued at $1,000, and the top 20 players will receive Del Mar-themed prizes. Enter at dmtc.com/contest.

Horses come out of the starting gate at Del Mar in August 2019.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Serious horseplayers have the opportunity to test their skills in three high-end handicapping contests:

· Saturday, July 24: LRF Cares Handicapping Challenge: This contest can be played at the track or through TVG.com. From the $500 buy-in, $250 goes toward a live bankroll and the remaining $250 is designated for the prize pool and donation to the nonprofit LRF Cares. The organization provides care for Little Red Feather partnership-owned horses after their racing careers are over. Bettors will wager $50 or more on five Del Mar races. Prizes include entry to the National Horseplayers Championship, Del Mar Handicapping Challenge and Pacific Classic Betting Challenge.

· Saturday, July 31, and Sunday, Aug. 1: Del Mar Handicapping Challenge: Up to two entries per person are permitted for this on-track contest. From the $4,000 buy-in, $3,000 is for the live bankroll and $1,000 goes into the prize pool. Expected prizes include five 2021 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries at Del Mar, and National Horseplayers Championship seats.

· Saturday, Aug. 21: Pacific Classic Betting Challenge: This event will be held at the track and at TVG.com and also permits up to two entries. It’s a $5,000 buy-in — $3,500 for the live bankroll and $1,500 to be deposited into the prize pool. Additional details will be announced.

For more information on the handicapping contests, email Bahr at chris@dmtc.com.

Wine and dine

Guests attend a past Uncorked Wine Festival at Del Mar racetrack. This year's event is set for Aug. 14.
(Jared Gase)

Social events at the track are limited at this time and may be added throughout the season, but one confirmed to be returning is the Uncorked Wine Festival. More than 100 wines from around the world will be available for patrons 21 and older to select, sip and pair with fare from gourmet food trucks onsite. The festival is set from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, with admission ranging from $25 to $85. The price includes seats and parking, and a portion of the proceeds will go toward Urban Surf 4 Kids. To learn more, go to uncorkedwinefestivals.com.

Taste of the Turf Club will be back on Sundays, when guests will be treated to a three-course brunch from a “locally inspired menu” and bottomless mimosas, Aperol spritzes or bloody Marys. Along with the food and beverages, the $100 fee includes a four-seat Turf Club table and admission, plus parking.

For those desiring a more casual dining experience, the “30-for-20” deal will again be offered, allowing people to buy $30 of scrip for $20 that can be used for food and beverages.

Del Mar racetrack 2021 summer season

Dates: July 16 through Sept. 6

Location: Via de la Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard, Del Mar

Post time: 2 p.m. Thursdays (starting July 29), Saturdays and Sundays; 4 p.m. Fridays (special first posts at 2 p.m. July 16 and 3:30 p.m. Aug. 27 and Sept. 3); 2 p.m. Labor Day (Sept. 6)

Admission (includes parking): $10-$16 Stretch Run ($20 Pacific Classic Day); $13-$18 Clubhouse ($23 Pacific Classic Day)

Information: dmtc.com, (858) 755-1141 ◆