As it has for the past two seasons, Del Mar again will offer 42 stakes races over the course of a 37-day summer meet that runs from July 20 through Sept. 7.
Highlighting the stakes roster for the 21st straight year is the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I), scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 28. The 1 1/4-mile race for 3-year-olds and up will be the richest of 31 stakes planned for the summer stand that will see racing conducted once more on a Wednesday through Sunday basis.
The 31 stakes will have total purse values of $6,075,000. Additionally, Del Mar will hold 11 overnight stakes with a value of $935,000, bringing the total stakes incentives for the session to $7,010,000.
“In light of all that’s going on in our sport right now, I’m delighted we were able to avoid any race cuts for our premier events,” said Del Mar’s executive vice president for racing and racing secretary Tom Robbins. “A few of our race purses were trimmed, but for the most part we held firm. And I’m especially pleased we once again will offer the Pacific Classic with a $1 million purse.”
Last year TVG’s sponsorship of the Pacific Classic enabled the race to remain at the $1 million level and the race was called the Pacific Classic, Presented by TVG. This year Del Mar and TVG’s parent company, Betfair, agreed to extend their arrangement with the race now called the TVG Pacific Classic.
“I believe one of the best things we can do for our sport in general is to encourage opportunities for distance races on the main track for older horses,” Robbins said. “We need to provide incentives to race for our good horses, rather than sending them off to the breeding shed. A million-dollar purse on a race like the TVG Pacific Classic does just that.”
Four stakes on the 2011 schedule had their purses trimmed by $50,000 each to allow the track to stay within prescribed percentage guidelines for its stakes purses established by the Thoroughbred Owners of California. Those races are the Del Mar Oaks (gr. I, now worth $250,000), the Del Mar Mile (gr. II, $200,000), Pat O’Brien Stakes (gr. I, $250,000), and the Del Mar Derby (gr. II, $250,000).
Conversely, all 11 of Del Mar’s overnight stakes rose in value this year from $75,000 to $85,000 each, a $110,000 total increase that followed prescribed TOC guidelines for overnight purses.
Moving the TVG Pacific Classic from Saturday to Sunday on the meet’s sixth weekend is among the minor changes to the stakes schedule. Twelve of the 20 previous runnings of the race were conducted on a Sunday, with those days proving overall to be most popular at the gate and the betting wickets.
Del Mar once more will feature its two grade I events for juveniles -- the $250,000 Del Mar Debutante for fillies and the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity. The pair of seven furlong dashes will anchor the end of the meet, with the Deb going on Labor Day Saturday (Sept. 3) and the Futurity in its usual closing day spot on Sept. 7.
The track will offer nine separate days where it will present two or more stakes in an afternoon, highlighted by the Pacific Classic day card that also will spotlight the grade I Pat O’Brien at seven panels and the grade II, $200,000 Del Mar Handicap at 11 furlongs on turf.
Labor Day, Sept. 5, will be the track’s lone exception to its Wednesday through Sunday format and the Monday card will offer a stakes doubleheader comprised of the $150,000, grade II Palomar Handicap for fillies and mares on the grass and the $100,000 I’m Smokin Stakes for California-bred juvenile sprinters.
Other notable stakes during the meet include a trio of grade I tests -- the $300,000 Eddie Read Stakes on grass July 23, the $250,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at six furlongs July 31, and the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes for fillies and mares Aug. 6. A total of 20 of the track’s major stakes are graded -- eight grade I’s, nine grade II’s, and three grade III’s.