Horse racing season is always a blur, suddenly appearing but fading like a mirage as soon as you try to grasp it. And this year’s summer meet at Del Mar may very well be one for the ages.
No one knew what to expect. After a year’s absence with no fans at the seaside oval due to the pandemic, and daily restrictions and guidelines set by the state leading up to Del Mar’s 82nd racing season, many questions remained unanswered.
If ever a sport needed a comeback from a horrible 16 months of lockdown and divorce from their core base of fans, this one was it.
Below you will read my thoughts and comments about a magical summer, on target, record-setting and too quick to end. Quite frankly, it was my “Summer of Love.”
Friday, July 16th — Opening Day! You could feel something was special about this season but every opening day is special. Just miss one like 2020 and you will soon appreciate it more. Trust me .. even the horses performed better in front of live people and the vibe is unmatched. GRADE A+
The Racing: David Jerkens and Tom Robbins, of the Del Mar Racing office, never took their foot off the pedal in putting forth racecard after racecard with value and big returns. This meet was the best betting meet with full fields in the last 10 years. And by the record levels of money wagered, it appears America has a gambling problem. GRADE A+
The Hustle: Jockey Flavien Prat won his third straight riding title and fifth over the last six seasons despite missing three weekends during the summer meeting with riding commitments in major stake races at Saratoga in New York and Chicago’s Arlington Park. Prat ended up with 47 wins. GRADE A
The Grit: Trainer Peter Miller struck quick and often from the start to defend his trainer title and led all trainers with 26 wins. This season marked his fifth summer training title in the last nine years. Miller saddled 143 starters and was short of $2 million in earnings by $112,000 dollars. GRADE A
The Voice: Track Announcer Trevor Denman returned to call the races. For me and many others, Trevor is the face of Del Mar and his voice empowers it. Like I wrote before, a blind man can see when Trevor calls a race. Yea, he made a few mistakes and mispronounced some horses’ names (Ginobili), but a bad day for Trevor is someone else’s best day. GRADE A+
The Conduit: Many radio shows promote racing, but The Mightier 1090 AM really connects fans with the horses, analysis, information and coverage from the host track, promoting this sport every day through thick and thin, rain or shine (Maybe the radio show’s lineup will return to the track program next summer). GRADE: B
The All Smiles Club: Jockey Joe Bravo shifted his tack from Monmouth Park, New Jersey to Del Mar this summer. Bravo refused to ride as a 15-time champion at his home track to defend and support his fellow jockeys and bringing attention to the most idiotic whip rule ever created by any racing venue. Bravo won 21 races, finished fifth in the standings and is here (California) to stay. GRADE: A
The Fans: Nobody has better racing fans than Southern California. Lock them out for a year and see what you get. The return of the fans was the perfect remedy for a year of solitary confinement. Del Mar has its brand and it begins with the horse racing fans who never disappoint. You gotta go a long way to match their passion and love this summer. Here’s my remedy for a blue day: Go to the races at Del Mar. Other than the horses, the fans are the real show. GRADE: A+
The Frequency Power: Airing our radio show over the Mightier 1090 every Saturday morning. 50,000 watts of horsepower. From San Diego To Santa Barbara and beyond. From Ventura, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Imperial counties and down into Baja, Mexico. Thanking station owner Bill Hagen for believing and giving us a shot in making our dreams come true. GRADE: AA++
The Fun: No amount of money can replace fun, friends or good health. This summer meet was solid from start to finish. Visiting with friends and sharing food, drink, bets, and conversations were priceless. Watching horses perform at their ultimate best in a venue rich in tradition with beautiful weather and safety for the horses a major concern, was a top-shelf experience. This meet was all about love. The Summer of Love ’21. GRADE: No grade high enough!
See you on the radio for Race & Sports Radio at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning on The Mightier 1090AM with Tommy D, Toby Turrell, Larry Zap, Nick Hines and Bob Hutton.