Attendance up, but wagering down two weeks into Del Mar season

Horses sprint from the gates during the final race of Opening Day on July 21.
(Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Attendance for the first two weeks at Del Mar was up around 1 percent.

The average field size of 9.75 percent is on pace with the record set in 2022.

And Del Mar president and chief operating officer Josh Rubinstein reports on-track, non-wagering revenue — ticketing and food and beverage — is up over a year ago.

“It’s encouraging,” said Rubinstein. “The Del Mar brand is strong.”

But gross wagering is off some 6 percent, a drop that was expected by track officials.

“Going into the meeting, we projected a reduction in gross wagering,” said Rubinstein. “We projected this due to a couple of things.

“Like many industries, as things have fully reopened and people are back to their routines out of their houses, we’ve seen a softening in our online business. That’s not unique to Del Mar or horse racing. That’s throughout many industries.

“In addition, with the spread of sports wagering online, that’s provided more competition for racing. Lastly, we increased rates to some of our high volume, computer wagering players and put restrictions on their participation in the win pools with the goal of reducing late odd shifts.”

But Rubinstein expects the net impact by the end of the summer meeting will be revenue neutral.

“The positive news on the wagering side, we’re working with companies like TVG to create a merged wallet which allows on-line wagering between horse racing and sports accounts,” said Rubinstein. “A customer can use the same account to wager on sports and horse racing.

“That’s currently implemented in eight states and growing. We’ve seen a substantial increase in those states in wagering on Del Mar races. As the number of states expands, it will stabilize the on-line business.

“We’re very encouraged about getting into a nice groove for the final six weeks. We’d like to get some of the decline back. Everywhere Del Mar sends its signal, we get paid a percentage of the handle based on our product. The gross handle is down, but margins are up. l we think by the end of the meet, we’ll be revenue neutral.”


Kangaroo Court and Bus Buzz will lead a six-horse field in Friday’s feature, the $175,000 Real Good Stakes for Cal-bred 3-year-olds at seven furlongs on the dirt. Kangaroo Court and Bus Buzz ran 1-2, respectively, in the Echo Eddie Stakes on April 23 at Santa Anita — the stretch-long duel decided by a head.

Both ran exactly a month later with much different results at different tracks. Kangaroo Court traveled to Churchill Downs and ran 11th in the Grade II Pat Day Mile. Bus Buzz stayed at Santa Anita and won another Golden States Series race.

Juan Hernandez will be aboard Kangaroo Court Friday. Edwin Maldonado has been aboard Bus Buzz in all five of his career starts.

• Hernandez will miss three of the next four days at Del Mar for a riding violation, threatening the defense of his jockey title. But Hector Berrios, who currently trails Hernandez by one win for the riding lead, will join Hernandez on the sidelines Aug. 10 for violating the use of the riding crop.

• The odds for the winning horses in the last five races ranged from 9-to-2 to 14-to-1, with the winning Pick 5 ticket paying $188,445.