From a weather standpoint, the November 7 opener of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Cub’s “Bing Crosby Season" was better than its regular late-July opener. But even with temperatures in the 80s, missing were the throngs of seersucker-suit-dressed men and tight-dressed women, big charter buses, and private infield parties.
But for the first-time running of horses in the fall, at a track known for the best 45 days of summer racing on the West Coast that draws an average 30,000 spectators, bettors, and partiers, it was a success: an estimated 15,000 fans showed up.
The California Horse Racing Board regulates the number of racing days in its effort to keep the sport thriving and maintain income generated for state coffers. When Hollywood Park closed last year, their schedule was divided up between the Del Mar and Santa Anita tracks. Santa Anita chose to add on their additional weeks at the beginning of their season in the spring; Del Mar opened their new meet in November.
Keith, a 20-season vendor for the Racing Form — the Bible of handicappers — says the turnout was much higher than expected. By the sixth race, he had sold out of racing forms for the day. He said he expects daily attendance to drop to around 3000 to 6000 fans per day as the weather changes. Like most track employees who play the ponies, Keith places all his bets early in the morning; he then watches the results throughout the day. He said he had a pretty good day.
New this year, club president Joe Harper announced that Del Mar’s experiment with the artificial “Polytrack” — fake dirt — is over. Installed in 2007 at a cost of $9 million, the Polytrack was supposed to help prevent injuries to horses. It didn’t work out, as most horses train or race on tracks of real dirt. The current track will be replaced for the 2015 meets.
Racing at Del Mar runs Thursdays through Sunday, through November 30. Due to the end of daylight savings time, post time varies, up to three hours earlier than the summer season.