The $1-million, grade I Pacific Classic will be repositioned to Labor Day weekend as the highlight of the 70th season of racing at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which will offer 31 stakes with purses totaling nearly $7 million. The meet begins Wednesday, July 22 and runs through Wednesday, Sept. 9.
The Pacific Classic will be supported by three other black-type tests on Sunday, Sept. 6 as part of the Labor Day weekend features.
“We’ve done some tinkering, some fine-tuning and some shifting about,” said director of racing Tom Robbins. “In the end, we’ve come up with a stakes schedule I really like – one that builds to an exciting finish and has a little bit of everything for everybody.”
Among the changes racing fans will note are:
--New grade I designations for the Clement L. Hirsch and the Pat O’Brien. The $300,000 Hirsch, for fillies and mares, will be run on Sunday, Aug. 9, while the $300,000 O’Brien, a seven-panel dash, will be run on Pacific Classic Day, Sept.6.
--The shifting of the Del Mar Futurity from its normal closing-day spot to a feature role on Labor Day Monday, along with an enhancement of its purse from $250,000 to $300,000.
--The renaming of the Del Mar Debutante as the Darley Debutante, honoring a liaison between the track and the worldwide racing and breeding giant that will provide significant extras to the juvenile filly championship race scheduled for September 5, including a purse rise from $250,000 to $300,000.
--The reshaping of the closing weekend with its Labor Day anchor featuring a stakes bonanza of 11 races between Friday and Monday dubbed the Pacific Classic Racing Festival, highlighted by six G=graded events, four of them grade I.
--The dropping of handicap conditions on five of the track’s record nine grade I events – the $350,000 Eddie Read Stakes (Sunday, July 25), the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (Saturday, Aug. 8), the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, the $350,000 John C. Mabee Stakes (Sunday, Aug. 16) and the Pat O’Brien Stakes. The installation of allowance conditions in place of handicap conditions is reflective of similar adjustments taking place nationwide.
“We’re loaded for bear again this summer,” DMTC’s president and general manager Joe Harper said in reference to the schedule. “If you like to see really good racehorses run, you surely can do it by coming to Del Mar.”
The total stakes money for the 31 advertised events is $6,950,000. In addition, the track also will offer 11 overnight stakes races – each with a value of $85,000 – for an additional $935,000 in purses. The total package, then, is worth $7,885,000, including 19 graded stakes -- nine grade I’s, eight grade II’s and two grade III’s.
Egiht of Del Mar’s stakes are designated “Win and You’re In” contests, offering the victorious horses automatic starting spots in their corresponding Breeders’ Cup championship races, which will be held this year at the Oak Tree-at-Santa Anita meet on Nov. 6 -7. Those eight Del Mar races are the $250,000, grade II San Diego Handicap (Sunday, Aug. 2), the $150,000 Cougar II Handicap (Wednesday, Aug. 5), the John C. Mabee, the $300,000, grade II Del Mar Mile (Saturday, Aug. 29), the $250,000, grade II Del Mar Handicap (Sunday, Aug. 30), the $200,000, grade III Rancho Bernardo Handicap (Friday, Sept. 4), the Pat O’Brien and the Pacific Classic.
The Del Mar Handicap, which is run at the marathon distance of a mile and three-eighths on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course, is the granddaddy of Del Mar stakes. It has been run every season Del Mar has been open and will be presented for the 70th time this year.
Opening the meet on July 22 will be the Oceanside Stakes with its $100,000 purse and the virtual certainty of being split. The one-mile grass race – the kickoff to the track’s 3-year-old turf series that also includes the $150,000, grade II La Jolla Handicap (Saturday, Aug.15) and the $350,000, grade II Del Mar Derby (Pacific Classic Day, Sept. 6) – has been divided into two races (and once into three) 28 times in its 64 runnings, including the last 20 in a row.