Del Mar’s innovative “Ship and Win” program – in which horsemen
bringing runners from out-of-state are rewarded with bonus payments when
those horses start during the current meet – has proven to be a plus
for both the track and the connections
Through Wednesday’s 16th day of the 37-day meeting, figures show that
the track has already had as many “new” runners this year – 50 – as it
did throughout all of 2010.
“We had hopes this program would prove beneficial in reversing the
decline of stock on the circuit,” stated Del Mar’s executive vice
president for racing Tom Robbins. “And while it certainly hasn’t been a
full answer to our needs, it has been a solid step in the right
Numbers compiled by the track’s racing office through Day 16 indicate
that 50 out-of-staters have started at the summer session, each earning
an automatic check for $1,000 when they broke from the gate.
Additionally, under the program’s further provision that a bonus of 20%
would be placed on top of purse monies earned in their initial starts,
an extra $37,564 in payments have gone to the newcomers. The total
amount expended on “Ship and Win” horses thus far then is $87,564.
“Obviously, we’ve attracted new folks to the meet with this program,”
Robbins noted. “But we’ve also encouraged our local owners and trainers
to go out and get runners from elsewhere. Already, there have been four
or five occasions where I’ve been able to fill a race because we had an
out-of-state horse thrown into the mix. If they hadn’t been there, the
race wouldn’t have been carded.”
Robbins noted that top trainer Mike Mitchell, who is on the verge of
becoming Del Mar’s leading trainer all time for wins, is an example of a
horseman who went out-of-state to get runners for the meet. He has
started six “new” horses so far that he claimed or purchased privately
Additionally, Robbins also pointed to trainers John Sadler, Tom
Proctor, Kristin Mulhall, Mike Puype and Ron Ellis, all of whom have
started out-of-state horses in the opening weeks of the meet.
Del Mar’s CEO, president and general manager, Joe Harper, saw additional blessings in the success of the program.
“We have a good partner in this arrangement in the Thoroughbred
Owners of California,” he said. “They were willing to team up with us
for this and because of their help we got it up and running. When people
work together in this business, good things can happen.”
Robbins, who has headed Del Mar’s racing office for the past 31 years
-- 22 of them as racing secretary -- noted two additional residual
“Many of these horses are going to run more than once at the meet,”
he said. “A second or a third start is more than likely with most of
them. So the benefits continue to ripple out. On top of that, several of
the new horsemen who’ve come on board have brought additional horses,
ones that don’t qualify for the bonuses, but who are now here and ready
to run. It can make a difference.”
Various studies on pari-mutuel betting have shown that each
additional horse added to a field can account for anywhere between 20
and 30% in added handle, numbers that indicate the “Ship and Win” horses
can all but pay for themselves with their starts at the meet.
Trainer Vann Belvoir, a former rider who is based primarily in the
Pacific Northwest, brought 15 horses to Del Mar keyed by the “Ship and
“The number one reason we came was because of the purses,” the
37-year-old conditioner said. “They are eye-popping. But then the bonus
program helped, too. It surely didn’t hurt to have the extra money added
for coming, but it was even more so a case of knowing you were being
encouraged to come on board that was important. A lot of times you can’t
be sure about a new place, but this made it plain that you were
welcome. That helped me sell several of my owners.”
Belvoir has done well with his runners thus far at the meeting.
Through the first 16 days of racing he had started 13 horses, winning
two races, running second three times and third once. On Thursday, he
started another runner – the 2-year-old filly Courtney’s Prize – who was
making her second start at the meet and came away a winner, pushing the
trainer’s outright purse earnings at the session to $84,050. In
addition, his bonus monies added $13,004 to his take.