The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club announced Thursday its intention to begin the 2020 summer race meet on July 10 and employ a three-day-a-week race schedule pending the approval of the California Horse Racing Board at its June 11 meeting.
Further, following guidelines issued by San Diego County public health officials, California state officials and in consultation with other public health experts, the track’s traditional summer meeting is preparing to operate without spectators, but will continue to work with state and local officials to adopt any changes as they happen. In all cases, Del Mar will follow similar COVID-19 protocols that have enabled racing to be conducted safely in California and throughout the country.
“We’re coming back and we’re going to put on the most unique show in Del Mar history,” said Del Mar’s CEO, Joe Harper. “It’s going to look different, it’s going to feel different, but it’s going to be first-class horse racing at Del Mar and in these unusual times that’s something to look forward to.”
Originally scheduled to open its 81st summer season on Saturday, July 18, Del Mar is planning a schedule change to start Friday, July 10 with racing on a Friday-Saturday-Sunday basis throughout the summer, closing with a four-day week on Labor Day Monday, September 7. The track will offer 10-race cards on Fridays and Sundays and 11-race cards on Saturdays. Opening Day will be an exception to the schedule with an 11-race program and Labor Day will offer 10 races.
The new schedule calls for 291 races over nine weeks. The track carded 297 races over its eight-week 2019 summer meeting.
“We want to begin the meet earlier and offer horsemen the same number of opportunities to run as we have for the last several summer seasons,” said Tom Robbins, DMTC’s executive vice president of racing. “We’ve had inquiries from new trainers from across the country who are interested in sending horses to Del Mar, which is encouraging.
"And because the San Diego Fair was cancelled this year, our track maintenance team will be preparing our racing surfaces earlier and we’ll be able to have horses on-site sooner than in the past. It will be a little different, but we’re confident we can present the same high caliber racing that fans, owners and trainers have come to expect.”
Racing at Santa Anita is scheduled to conclude June 21. Los Alamitos will offer Thoroughbred racing from June 26 through July 5. Both tracks have been operating live racing without fans and with only essential personnel under strict protocols in response to COVID-19.
“Over the past several weeks Del Mar has joined with other racing industry leaders to develop extensive operating procedures to permit horse racing in a way that ensures the safety of all employees, stakeholders and our horses,” said Josh Rubinstein, DMTC’s president and COO. “A number of medical experts throughout the country have provided guidance and helped us develop a comprehensive plan. DMTC’s planning has benefitted from additional direction and aid from local experts such as Scripps Health’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, and her colleagues.”
Rubinstein praised local health and elected officials.
“San Diego County’s Health & Human Services Agency and its elected officials, working in concert with state officials, have done an incredible job ensuring San Diego stays safe during this difficult time,” he said. “We are grateful for their leadership, guidance and positive feedback as we implement our safety guidelines that follow the stringent protocols that have been successful at California’s other Thoroughbred racing facilities.”
Even without spectators, Del Mar’s racing season is important to the continued economic viability of California’s horse racing industry. The regular care and training of racehorses in the state supports thousands of jobs, housing and health care services for workers, as well as hundreds of local small businesses and family farms.
Wagering on Del Mar’s races will continue remotely via online platforms like TVG and at off-track betting locations around the world. In 2019, 90% of wagering on Del Mar’s races took place off-track and during the recent “Safer At Home” guidelines in many states Internet wagering has surged.
Del Mar will present its traditional stakes schedule with some minor modifications. The full stakes schedule will be released Friday.
The track’s broadcast partner – TVG – will provide enhanced Del Mar coverage throughout the summer. NBC Sports is currently broadcasting TVG on its popular NBCSN channel. Discussions are on-going for including Del Mar in these future national broadcasts.
First post daily throughout the summer will be at 5 p.m. ET.