Del Mar’s 72nd season races to a successful close


Del Mar’s 72nd season of thoroughbred sport raced to a successful conclusion Sept. 7, finishing out a 37-day run that many are saying is one of the best in its storied history.

The season kicked-off with yet another record-breaking Opening Day. A total of 46,588 fans made the pilgrimage to the seaside track, resulting in Del Mar’s biggest day in history and the seventh straight year that Del Mar has broken its first-day attendance record. The Opening Day numbers are reflective of the track’s overall rise in attendance that has been consistent since the turn of the century. In 2000, Del Mar averaged 14,252 fans per day. This season’s daily average of 17,844 means that number has increased by more than 25 percent.

The track’s final attendance count at the end of its seven-week session tallied up at 660,245, nearly even with 2010’s total of 662,521, meaning a daily average of 17,844 in 2011 vs. last year’s 17,906. Though the final numbers showed a slight percentage decline of 0.3 percent, the fact remains that the hearty crowds that click through the turnstiles on a season-long basis are the best in the west by far and right at the very top in the national picture.

“We put everything into making this season a great show with new events and terrific racing,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s CEO, president and general manager Joe Harper. “The response by our fans was outstanding. They were spirited, the betting windows were packed and the Del Margaritas were flowing. We all seemed to truly enjoy what was one of our most fun meets ever.”

Highlights of the summer entertainment calendar included performances from Ben Harper, Weezer, Ziggy Marley and Jimmy Eat World as part of the 10-show Del Mar Summer Concert Series. The August 7 match race between Hall-of-Fame jockey Mike Smith and ex-fiancé Chantal Sutherland drew the attention of race goers craving real life drama to go with their sport. Smith outran Sutherland in a feisty public duel in only the fifth match race in Del Mar’s celebrated history. The first-ever Food Truck Festival at Del Mar rallied more trucks in one location than ever before in San Diego and drew a sizeable Saturday crowd of 28,909 hungry fans. More than 40 trucks gathered at the Seaside Cabana serving good grub on wheels from famous food trucks like Nom Nom and Devilicious that made their way from as far as Los Angeles for the big event. And Miss Cougar Del Mar was crowned again this year making Rosa Hildebrandt Del Mar’s most cherished Cougar and the fourth honored recipient of the title.

One race fan in particular made headlines this year when he left the track $1 million richer on July 27. The epic win was the result of a $2 Pick Six that earned the lucky bettor a total of $1,109,920.80.

Another first for Del Mar — a new mobile app — was introduced this year allowing race fans to access real-time results, instant replays and the ability to purchase tickets and place bets all from their smart phone. Over the course of the 37-day race meet, 1,075 people signed up for accounts and purchased 26,763 tickets on their mobile devices. From the luxury of their seats, they bet $515,656 on the track’s Thoroughbreds, averaging about $19.25 per wager.

Overall, Del Mar’s handle figures showed a slight decline of 4.2 percent, dipping from $12,133,302 to $11,628,660 on a daily average basis. The 2011 total handle was $430,260,422 as opposed to last year’s $448,932,160.

And though handle inched down, it still raced ahead of pre-meet projections and – with an especially strong finish in the final days of the session — will allow the track to pay its horsemen a record daily purse average of more than $630,000, as well as an underpayment of more than $1.5-million, a bonus of more than 10 percent on top of the nation’s highest overnight purses.

Bucking industry trends, Del Mar actually increased its field size — the number of horses racing in each race — which is something currently unheard of in the racing industry. Last year’s average field size was 8.2 horses and increased this year to 8.4, an indication of Del Mar’s position above the nations’ elite tracks.

Cougars, concerts, big wins and fast thoroughbreds sped the season to a successful close and as is its fashion, the 2011 Del Mar racing season will go down in history alongside notable seasons past, as well as anticipated meets to come. For more 2011 results or information about tickets for the 2012 season, visit

or call (858) 755-1141.

Del Mar Racetrack by the numbers:

•150,000: Bales of hay delivered to stables

•382: Contestants in the Opening Day Hat Contest

•10,000 (5,000/day): Donuts served on annual Donuts Days

•110 pounds: Average weight of jockey

•1,075 pounds: Average weight of horse

•2,100: Number of horses housed at Del Mar

•55,000: The number of Del Margaritas sold during the season

•$18,125,143: Highest amount bet on a single day – Aug. 28

•$1,109,920.80: Most money won by a bettor on a single day – July 27

•324: Times Trevor Denman said “And away they go”