In the time between races of Del Mar's opening day card July 19, fans and horsemen figure to give some thought to the Breeders' Cup World Championships, which will be contested at the seaside Southern California track this fall.
But front and center is the prestigious summer meet, which will feature 36 race dates from Wednesday through Labor Day, Sept. 4. Del Mar will offer Wednesday through Sunday racing throughout the meet, with a bonus Labor Day Monday.
To get things started July 19, a 10-race card will feature the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds. The one-mile turf event attracted an overflow field of 16, with two of those entries currently on the also-eligible list.
Trainer Peter Miller, who finished second in wins to trainer Phil D'Amato at last year's Del Mar summer meeting, has entered three horses in the Oceanside who each reached the wire first in their previous start.
Drawing the rail was Rockingham Ranch's Arms Runner, who improved to 2 for 2 when he captured the Desert Code Stakes May 13. The son of Overdriven registereded both of his wins racing on the Santa Anita Park hillside course.
Miller will also send out Sinnott Family Trust's Vending Machine, who finished first in a June 9 allowance-optional claiming race on Santa Anita's hillside course but was placed fourth for interference. The son of Hard Spun earned a grade 3 placing last year and closed out his juvenile season with a victory in the Eddie Logan Stakes on the turf at Santa Anita at the Oceanside distance.
Rounding out the Miller trio is Rockingham Ranch's Allaboutmike, who has won two consecutive races on the downhill course—a maiden-claiming race and a starter-allowance—and will make his stakes debut Wednesday.
Del Mar drew its first two cards with 107 entered Wednesday and another 74 entered in Thursday's eight races, equating to just more than 10 horses per race. That average includes horses on the also-eligible list.
Last year Del Mar averaged 8.31 starters per race, which was down slightly from the 8.79 average for 2015. Del Mar offered 347 races in 2016 and 354 in 2015.
Last year total purses at Del Mar declined 9.7% to $22,007,677. Average purses per race were off 7.9% to $63,423.
The meet will mark the debut of a modified main track, changes put in place under new director of track maintenance Dennis Moore. The changes aim to replicate the banking and grading of its sister track to the north, Santa Anita.
"Our priority, of course, is safety," said Del Mar president and CEO Joe Harper in March. "One of the key elements in safety is consistency and this adjustment will give our horses and horsemen that consistency when it comes to the two main racing surfaces on our circuit. Once again we salute the folks at Santa Anita for working with us on this."
Besides changes to the main track, this year's meet will feature the addition of a new 21-foot-high, 35-foot-wide video board in the track's infield. The board provides approximately 735 square feet of imagery with the capability to show not only a full-screen presentation, but also multiple images at once in various zones on the board.
"Our fans are going to really appreciate this new look," said Del Mar COO Josh Rubinstein. "You'll see a race unfold in extra sharp images even in the bright sunshine we're used to here at Del Mar. This is an upgrade that will make a day at the races all the better."
The Breeders' Cup World Championships, set for the Bing Crosby meeting at Del Mar, will feature total purses and awards of more than $29 million, including a robust undercard of supporting races. That meet opens Wednesday, Nov. 1.