Del Mar finished up a sparkling summer run Wednesday, closing out a 37-day season with a rush not quite like any it has had before. With strong numbers rung up for purses, field size and handle, the seaside oval was happy to take a bow as it concluded its 75th anniversary year with pluses in virtually every category, some of them of the husky double-digit variety.
“The 75th was one of the most successful seasons ever for us,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club president and CEO Joe Harper. “Terrific racing and lots of good betting opportunities because of it. And we also did the Del Mar thing really well, which means that the show was good and we had fun – both putting it on and watching it unfold. Lots of fun.”
A key to all the good racing and betting was the track’s against-the-general-racing-grain ability to offer above-average-size fields for many of its races. Whereas the industry in general is struggling with a diminishing horse population, Del Mar went upward in its field size number, increasing from 8.4 per race in 2011 to 8.7 in 2012.
Overall, Del Mar’s all-sources handle jumped 8.8%, bucking industry trends. The final figures read out at a daily average of $12,651,175 (on a total of $468,093,477) for the meet lined up against the 2011 figures of an average of $11,629,151 (on a total of $430,278,585).
“Obviously, we at the Thoroughbred Owners of California are extremely pleased with the success of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s 2012 meeting,” said Lou Raffetto, president of the TOC. “While the season began with the highest purses the track has ever offered, the gains that Del Mar has experienced -- both on-track and off -- will act as a catalyst for a substantial retroactive purse payment to owners that won prize money in overnight races during the meet. We congratulate Del Mar and look forward to our return next year.”
In turn, Del Mar officials were more than happy to pay tribute for the support they received from their horsemen, as well as their fans. Speaking for the track, executive vice president for racing and industry relations Tom Robbins threw out a large salute to those putting on the show -- and those taking it in.
Yet another winner during the anniversary year run was the second season of the track’s popular “Ship and Win” program, a key component in the increase in horses-per-race. Horsemen and owners were encouraged to bring in out-of-state runners through the program and were rewarded monetarily for it. The “Ship and Win” horse population went up from 107 in 2011 to 137 in 2012, a 28% increase.
In addition to the “Ship and Win” program, the track employed the aid of the Barretts sales company to conduct a first-ever, race-ready-racehorse sale on its first weekend and sold 25 out-of-state runners in its paddock that brought an additional boost to the track inventory.
Other plus numbers that indicated the good health of the session included running more races during the 37 days this year – 328 as opposed to 323 in 2011 – and recording more claims – 261 for $6,167,000 vs. 2011’s 254 for $6,210,500.
The track’s stellar season was further boosted by its rise in the digital world. Del Mar continued its cyber advancement by providing its fans with the first mobile app in the industry to allow on-track wagering. This highly praised customer service offered a multitude of features that included real time results, odds, will pays and scratches, along with additional wagering and informational advantages. The app and its content drew more than 20,000 downloads, in excess of 1.2-million mobile page views and more than 55,000 wagers. Additionally, the track continued its established social media expansion by conducting its third annual social media day, which transformed nearly 600 on-line community members into on-track patrons.
“We are delighted with the outstanding results of our 2012 race meet,” summed up Mike Ernst, DMTC’s executive vice president, finance and CFO. “Our racing, marketing and operations departments – as well as our entire staff – worked extremely hard on this memorable meet. With the tremendous support of our horsemen, our 75th anniversary marked a rewarding – and as is usually the case at Del Mar – entertaining summer of Thoroughbred sport.”