DEL MAR, Calif.— A dozen years ago, the Del Mar racing office came up with this idea to encourage out-of-state owners and trainers to bring their runners to the seaside oval for the summer. They offered them bonus money just for showing up, then offered them the additional chance to earn more money as a percentage of the purse money they won in their initial start.
It met with some success to start. Then it got better the next time around, and the next, and the next. And now, here we are in year 12 and it would be safe to call the program a rip, roaring success. The first year it was offered, the starting lure was $1,000 and there was 20% additional tied to purse money made in a first start. This year, the lure has risen to $5,000 and 50% for dirt runners and $4,000 and 40% to turf types.
Horsemen and women have taken notice. So have bettors. The out-of-town horses add numbers to field size and spice to the handicapping stew. The guys who crunch the numbers at Del Mar have determined that the action the “new” horses bring pays for itself. Here are the numbers so far at the halfway point of the summer meet, thanks to the Del Mar racing office’s numbers guy, Tora Yamaguchi, the track’s racing coordinator.
Through the first four weeks (15 days), 143 horses have qualified for “S & W” rewards – 68 dirt types, 75 turfers. Additionally, 30 horses from Santa Anita’s “S & W” program (which Del Mar works hand-in-glove with) have collected purse bonuses.
For comparison, last year through four weeks (14 racing days), 120 horses had qualified (and there were only 180 for the entire meet), 48 of them on dirt, 72 on turf. Forty horses from Santa Anita “S & W” got in the mix (with only 43 total for the entire meet).
So far, the “starter” money awarded in 2022 is $641,000; the total purse bonus money awarded is $417,520. That adds up to more than $1 million in “S & W” cash. Those numbers tell us that before the meet is done, it is quite likely the track will have set a new standard for its “S & W” numbers. Yamaguchi also notes that 17 different winners in the first half of the session have been “S & W” horses. He also points out that of the seven top trainers who have brought in “S & W” horses four are new to Del Mar this year (Robertino Diodoro with 12 head; Jeff Engler with 10; Jack Sisterson with nine and Rachael Keithan with eight). But he also notes, interestingly enough, that the other three are local conditioners bringing in out-of-town stock on their own or in conjunction with their owners: Doug O’Neill with 11; Phil D’Amato with 10, and Bob Hess, Jr. with seven).
So is “S & W” a winner? You can bet on it.
Notes: Bob Baffert reports that Havnameltdown came out of his G3 Best Pal victory on Sunday “really well.” He says the G1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity on closing day, September 11 is an option right now…Notable works for Thursday: Dirt – Fast and Shiny (4f, 49.40); Beyond Brilliant (5f, 1:00.80), and War At Sea (6f, 1:13.00). Turf – Leggs Galore (3f, 37.60), and None Above the Law (4f, 50.00). A total of 80 horses put in official works on the dirt Thursday, 21 on the turf.
DMTC Press Release
Photo: Del Mar (Benoit Photo)