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New Wrinkle for Del Mar's 'Ship and Win' Plan

Out-of-state runners may also compete at Santa Anita, Los Alamitos prior to Del Mar.

"Ship and Win," a Del Mar promotion to bring in out-of-state performers, has attracted hundreds of racehorses over the past three summers and is back for another season in 2014 with its lucrative incentives intact.

The policy was initiated by Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in partnership with the Thoroughbred Owners of California in 2011. It offers a guaranteed $1,000 check to all starters, as well as a 33.3% bonus payment on top of any purse monies won in a first start at Del Mar, to owners of horses who last raced outside California. Stakes races are excluded.

Del Mar's 75th racing season will begin July 17 and continue through Sept. 3.

In an additional wrinkle to this year's program given the new racing calendar in Southern California, Del Mar will be offering a special consideration to its sister racetracks Santa Anita Park and Los Alamitos. Horses that come from out-of-state and run once either during the final three weeks of the extended Santa Anita season (June 12-29) or the two weeks of the inaugural Los Alamitos Thoroughbred meet (July 3-13) will remain eligible for Del Mar's "Ship and Win" bonus.

In 2011, 107 horses took advantage of the economic incentive to race at the Del Mar shore. In 2012 the number of new runners rose to 137. Last year it went up once again, this time to 149 head of fresh stock.

"We've had a solid and steadily increasing response to this program," noted Tom Robbins, Del Mar's executive vice president for racing. "We're expecting more of the same in 2014. And not only do these horses come and make a start at Del Mar, most of them make subsequent starts, then stay on the circuit for good. It is a winner all the way around for Southern California racing."

Del Mar tracked last year's "Ship and Win" participants to back up Robbins' belief that the the program benefits racing in the southern half of the state.

Of the 149 runners who made an initial start at Del Mar and collected a $1,000 check, 59 of them made at least one more start during the track's 37-day season. All told, the 149 runners made 275 subsequent starts in California through the final Betfair Hollywood Park session that ended Dec. 22.

In 2010, the year prior to the start of "Ship and Win," Del Mar averaged 8.2 runners per race. While average field size is falling at most racetracks in the country, Del Mar's numbers have risen every year since, with a direct tie to the out-of-state program being the key. In 2011 the track's field size went to 8.4 per race; in 2012 in rose to 8.7, and in 2013 it registered at 8.8.

Most wagering studies indicate a notable increase in handle can be tied directly to field size. New additional horses feed handle, which in turn feeds purses, making the "Ship and Win" program a positive in all regards.

Del Mar's pursesthe largest in California and among the largest of any track in the countryalso have risen during the three "Ship and Win" seasons. In 2011, the track's daily average purses reached $630,000 per afternoon. In 2012 it jumped up to $687,498, while last year it reached a record $707,000 per card.

Citing three examples, Robbins noted that "Ship and Win" bonuses attached to the track's already husky purses mean that shippers in a straight $75,000 maiden race could be running for a $100,000 purse. Additionally, $62,500 claimers would be chasing $90,000 pots, and $12,500 claimers run for $37,000.

Below is a sampling of the track's projected purses for the 2014 season with "Ship and Win" bonuses alongside:

Race Type/Purse/"S & W" Bonus
Md $50k/$38,000/$50,000
Md $20K/$25,000/$33,000
Alw 1X/$77,000/$102,000
$25,000, NW2/$31,000/$41,000
$ 8,000/$20,000/$26,000