Oak Tree, Del Mar Offer Juvenile Turf Stakes

Agreement will also bring Yellow Ribbon to seaside track for upcoming summer meet.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club announced April 20 that it will add two new juvenile turf stakes to its schedule in conjunction with the Oak Tree Racing Association during the upcoming meet.

The two new juvenile contests, the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf and the Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf, each will be run at a mile on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course with purses of $100,000. The races, meant as stepping stones toward the two Breeders’ Cup’s juvenile grass offerings, also expand the track’s emphasis on its 2-year-old program.

The Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf will be run on Labor Day Sept. 3, while the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf will be unveiled on closing day Sept. 5.

"We think they will be a real draw," said Sherwood Chillingworth, Oak Tree's executive vice president. "No one else is offering juvenile turf stakes at that time of year."

Del Mar is also picking up Oak Tree's Yellow Ribbon Stakes, which will replace the Palomar Handicap (gr. IIT) on the summer schedule with additional purse money from Oak Tree making the race worth $250,000.

Oak Tree, the not-for-profit racing association that has donated more than $26 million to racing-related charitable causes during its existence, is currently dormant as it waits for room on the Southern California racing calendar. It ran exclusively at Santa Anita Park during the fall since 1969 before losing its lease and operating the 2010 season at Hollywood Park.

Last year, Santa Anita paid Oak Tree for the right to run many of the group's major stakes as preps for the Breeders' Cup World Championships. Santa Anita will run many of those grade I races once again in 2012, including the Ancient Title, Goodwood, and Ladies' Secret, Chillingworth said.

In exchange, Oak Tree will retain office space at Santa Anita and be able to use the track's accounting office for the next two years, he said.

"It's for two years and then we'll see what happens," Chillingworth said. "At some point, Hollywood Park is going to go away (for redevelopment). Our intention is to continue racing."

In the meantime, Oak Tree can maintain a presence through some of its stakes races.

“Having the Oak Tree name linked with that of Del Mar’s is an honor for both groups,” said Del Mar’s chief executive officer and president Joe Harper in a statement announcing the seaside track's upcoming stakes schedule. “Oak Tree stands for the best in this business; they always did and they always will. Clement Hirsch, my mentor, was an original founder of both Oak Tree and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and my first job in racing management was with him at Oak Tree. I couldn’t be happier to see us in a way come together again.”

Del Mar will offer seven grade I races and notable purse increases to 10 of its major stakes during its 37-day meeting. The robust summer schedule of 33 “advertised” and 10 “overnight” stakes has a total value of $7,775,000.

Del Mar will be celebrating its 75th anniversary during the July 18 to Sept. 5 stand. It plans to conduct live racing on a Wednesday through Sunday basis, as it has for the past three years, with an additional Labor Day Monday program.

The stakes lineup is led by the 22nd edition of the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic, a 10-furlong test for 3-year-olds and up Aug. 26. It will anchor a stakes triple-header.

Del Mar’s 10 stakes purse increases serve a two-fold purpose. It ensures that the track’s grade I program has no race with a value less than $300,000 and also boosts its California-bred offerings as further encouragement for the state’s breeding industry.

Four grade I races -- the Bing Crosby Stakes (July 29), the Del Mar Oaks (Aug. 18), the Del Mar Debutante (Sept. 1), and the Del Mar Futurity (Sept. 5) – all have had their values enhanced by $50,000 to $300,000 for the upcoming meeting.

Four California-bred stakes also have been made more lucrative, two at $100,000 additional each -- the Fleet Treat (July 28) and the Real Good Deal (Aug. 3) -- making them each worth $200,000. Two others – the Generous Portion (Aug. 29) and the I’m Smokin Stakes (Sept. 3) -- have been upped by $50,000 to $150,000 each.

Finally, the grade II Del Mar Derby (September 2), the track’s 3-year-old championship race, has had an additional $50,000 tacked on to its conditions meaning it will run for a $300,000 prize. The newly renamed Yellow Ribbon Stakes purse has been raised by $100,000.

“We are projecting good things for this anniversary summer, especially on our high end,” said Tom Robbins, Del Mar’s executive vice president for racing and racing secretary. “If you’ve got good horses, we’ve got good places to go with them. And we’re leading the charge with tracks around the state that are rewarding owners for buying and racing California-breds. Our breeding industry is heading for a turnaround and our Cal-bred purses will help to show the way.”

Del Mar also will present two additional grade I features, the $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes July 21, and the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes Aug. 4.

The track will present two or more stakes on nine different days throughout the meet, topped by the Pacific Classic Day triple-header that also will spotlight a pair of grade II events -- the $250,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes at seven furlongs and the $200,000 Del Mar Mile on the lawn.

Five of Del Mar’s stakes have been tabbed as “Win and You’re In” races by the Breeders’ Cup, allowing the winners automatic entry and additional monetary benefits into their designated season-ending championship events. Those races are the grade II, $200,000 San Diego Handicap (July 28), the Clement L. Hirsch, the grade II $200,000 Del Mar Handicap (Aug. 25), the TVG Pacific Classic, and the Del Mar Futurity.