Del Mar’s traditional seven-week summer meet could undergo some changes in the next few years, as Hollywood Park heads for development and the entire Southern California racing calendar adjusts.
Joe Harper, Del Mar’s president, chief executive officer, and general manager, in speaking about the end of the 2008 meet, answered questions about what expanded role Del Mar might take with the coming demise of Hollywood.
“Hollywood is committed through the summer season of ’09,” Harper said. “It just depends on the economics of the situation as to when they start tearing down and building. We’ve had meetings (with other racing associations), and we know we have to agree before we can go to Sacramento and get the type of legislation needed to change the racing calendar around. I think the horsemen are going to play a major key in that.”
One of the difficulties to expanding Del Mar’s season is that the San Diego County Fair typically runs at the facility from mid-June through the Fourth of July weekend.
“This year, we had 10 days in between the close of the fair and us, and we got it done,” Harper said. “I think you can tighten that up even more. We’ve got a great relationship with the fair, and our operational people did an incredible job. I really think if you set your mind to doing a five-day turnover, it could be done.”
Any dates added to Del Mar’s summer schedule would do better at the beginning of the season because whenever the last week has fallen after Labor Day, the numbers suffer. Harper also said the track would like to switch from a six-day week to a five-day week. A second, shorter meet in the fall might also be contemplated.
Other changes to the racing calendar could include expanded dates at Santa Anita Park and Fairplex Park. Fairplex, which picks up with a three-week fair meet following the close of Del Mar, has expressed interest in expanding to a mile track with a turf course, but funding is not yet in place.
Harper spoke about Del Mar’s plans to widen its turf course as well, in anticipation of eventually hosting the Breeders’ Cup. Del Mar officials are uncertain just when the turf-course project would get under way. Harper speculated it could be completed by 2010, with the possibility that Del Mar could host the Breeders’ Cup in 2012.