Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Closing Day For Del Mar's Summer Meet

Horses on the second race of the day on Open Day at the Del Mar Racetrack, July 16, 2021.
Alexander Nguyen
Horses on the second race of the day on Open Day at the Del Mar Racetrack, July 16, 2021.

The Del Mar racetrack concludes its summer season Monday.

Although this season was different because of COVID-19, Joe Harper, the president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, said it didn't disappoint.

Closing Day For Del Mar’s Summer Meet
Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.

“It was a tremendous year. This will be the best year ever in Del Mar’s history for a total betting handle. We’re gonna be up to half a billion dollars for thirty one days. Gives me a warm fuzzy feeling,” he said.

Harper said the daily average for this season was around $18 million dollars.

RELATED: Fourth Horse Dies As Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Wraps Up Summer Meet Schedule

He said part of this season's success was the loss of sporting events last year. That brought new interest to horse racing.

“A lot of those sports betters came to racing. You can bet on your phone, pretty much anywhere in the country now,” said Harper.


RELATED: Fans Excited To Return To The Stands On Del Mar Opening Day

Harper was also hoping the track could maintain its safety record for horses. But a two-year-old colt had to be euthanized after today's second race. Honor Award was the fifth horse to die at this year's meet. The California Horse Racing Board shows three of this year's fatalities happened during training.

Harper said safety is one of their priorities.

“What we worry about are the things we can control," Harper said. "So we've spent millions of dollars on the dirt behind me making it as safe as possible. We’ve hired a number of veterinarians to watch these horses not only in the afternoon but in the morning.”

Ellen Ericksen is one of the animal activists who's been rallying to stop the races.

“Horses are being abused, and they are being over drugged, they are pushed to race fast and in pain on massive amounts of medication to mask their pain and its animal abuse,” she said.

The safety of race-goers has been another concern. Harper said the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has also been working with the Health department to ensure safety among staff and visitors.

“We have one thousand employees on the back stretch. I'm grateful to say that well over 90% of them are vaccinated. We had very few positives, maybe one or two, and those were no symptoms,” he said.

Safety for visitors also means reduced capacities.

This year's summer opening day was a ticket-only event. Harper said that is an idea that might continue. “I think we're gonna do that every opening day because it was much easier for people to get around. Our opening days here you got 40,000 people in the facility, it's jam packed,” he said.

Walk up tickets were available later in the season, but concerts did not make a return.

The fall meet kicks off on Nov. 3, when the Breeders Cup returns to Del Mar for the second time in its history.

VIDEO: Closing Day For Del Mar's Summer Meet