The Coast News Group
Del Mar horse racing is expecting its biggest season ever this year.
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is expecting its biggest horse racing season ever this year. File photo
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Del Mar Thoroughbred Club expects record-breaking racing season

DEL MAR — The upcoming Del Mar horse racing season is gearing up to be one of the most lucrative racing seasons ever, with record purses that will be the highest in California’s history.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club released its projections for 2022, which indicate purse levels for its 31-day meet above $25-million with an average purse payout of more than $800,000 per day. Additionally, 21 of its major stakes will be increased sharply and its overnight purses raised by a blended rate of 15 percent.

“We’ve been on a roll of late and based on the feedback we’re receiving from local and out-of-state stables, I’m very optimistic our positive trend will continue,” said Del Mar’s executive vice president for racing Tom Robbins. “Last year we averaged a record $18.4 million a day in handle and our field size was 8.5 per race. Those are powerful numbers, not only in the west but all across the country. We’re going to try to increase them this year and I believe we’ve got a good chance to do so.”

The track’s “Ship & Win” program – which typically draws hundreds of out-of-state competitors – will give owners and trainers their highest offerings in its 12-year history with a $5,000 starter bonus and a 50 percent purse supplement to dirt runners, as well as a $4,000 bonus and a 40 percent supplement to grass starters.

The projections come as many across the state are questioning the future of horseracing as a whole. Del Mar has seen many ups and downs in the last few years including a stream of horse fatalities, a mounting debt, an unyielding community of animal rights activists and the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which have put the business in a fragile position.

In fact, every California racetrack is facing a growing chorus of protests about issues like animal rights, workers’ rights, horse drugging and horse betting.

However, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and its supporters have maintained that horseracing is, and will continue to be, a vital part of the community and the economy, and a season like this is just what the Club needed.

“Del Mar is America’s premier race meet,” said Thoroughbred Owners of California chairman Gary Fenton. “Owners look forward to competing there and soaking in the incredible experience offered by our friends at DMTC and the county of San Diego. We are grateful for the hard work that goes into planning our magical summers at Del Mar.”

The season will start with a three-day weekend (Friday, July 22-24), then have five four-day weeks (Thursday-Sunday), a five-day week (including Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5), then finish with a Friday-Sunday weekend (Sept. 9-11). Tickets go on sale May 13.