Del Mar Says Shorter Race Week a Success

Del Mar believes its new five-day racing week as a success.

A shorter racing week helped Del Mar register gains in average daily attendance and pari-mutuel handle, the California racetrack reported Sept. 9, closing day of the meet.

Average daily purses increased about 5.1%. Total purses paid dropped by about $2 million because the track raced six fewer days.

Del Mar dropped Monday racing this year and offered 37 programs versus 43 in 2008. Track officials said the results of the five-day race week were encouraging.

Average daily on-track handle was $2,292,284 per day, up 5.8% from $2,167,028 last year. Average daily attendance was reported at 17,181, up 7.4% from 16,002 last year.

If Monday racing from 2008 is taken out of the equation, average daily handle actually dropped 1%, and attendance was off 0.4%, officials said.

Del Mar said this year’s average daily attendance figure is the highest since 1987 in the days before patrons could make wagers at other California locations.

“When we went all out for our dates change, we were reacting to economic circumstances and trying to put some energy back into this wonderful sport of ours,” Del Mar president and general manager Joe Harper said in a statement. “For too long now, the idea has been that you can never have enough, a philosophy that, given the reality of the times, no longer holds true.

“The key to most everything we did this summer was the change to the five-day week. It was overwhelmingly popular and absolutely successful. From our racing fans, to our horsemen, to our employees, it has been win, win, win. We offered a better show this summer in so many ways, and the across-the-board response to it has been gratifying.”

Average daily all-sources handle on Del Mar racing increased 0.3%, from $13,005,906 to $13,040,206. Total handle for the 37-day meet was $482,487,630, down 13.7% from $559,253,943 in 2008, when six more programs were offered.

Del Mar launched its own advance deposit wagering site ( this year, and its product was taken by more ADW providers. In-state ADW handle was up 14% on average, and out-of-state ADW handle increased 22% on average, the track reported.

“In the face of challenging economic headwinds, we were very pleased with the growth in average daily on-track and ADW wagering,” Del Mar senior vice president and chief financial officer Mike Ernst said. “These growth areas helped offset wagering declines in off-track simulcast handle, which is down sharply throughout the country.”

According to The Jockey Club Information Systems, Del Mar paid an average of $544,351 a day in purses, up from $517,678. Total purses paid dropped to $20,140,984 from $22,260,138 in 2008.

Average field size was 8.56, down slightly from 8.59 last year, TJCIS reported. The drop is counter to most cases in which fewer programs yield bigger field size, as was the case with Ellis Park in Kentucky this summer.