The seaside oval’s richest and most prestigious afternoon will come on Saturday, August 18 when the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic will be served up for the 28th time as the highlight of a stakes-filled card.
Last year the seaside oval also presented 41 stakes worth $7.3 million during a 36-day run, underpinning one of its most accomplished seasons ever. The robust stakes schedule on both occasions offered/offers 33 “advertised” stakes carrying purses from $100,000 to $1,000,000 and eight “overnight” stakes worth $75,000 each.
The advertised stakes include 21 graded events, six of them Grade I, 11 at Grade II and four at Grade III.
The Classic, which is the West's only $1 million race for older horses, is run at a mile and one quarter for 3-year-olds and up. It tops a stakes tripleheader afternoon that also will offer the Grade I, $300,000 Del Mar Oaks and the Grade II, $250,000 Del Mar Handicap. The Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies, is run at nine furlongs, while the Handicap, an 11-furlong marathon, is for 3-year-olds and up. Both of those races will be contested over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
Nineteen of the stakes will be run on the grass with the other 22 on the main track. Del Mar’s turf course was expanded and totally replaced prior to the 2014 season, while the main track was returned to dirt in 2015.
“We’re very pleased to be able to offer the same stakes schedule as last year,” said Del Mar’s racing secretary, David Jerkens. “Some stakes programs across the country are declining a bit, but we are holding the line at Del Mar. We saw a lot of new owners and trainers here last fall because of the Breeders’ Cup and we heard a lot of positive reviews. We’re hopeful some of those outfits will be back for stakes races this summer.”
Though the schedule stays the same for value and timing, there are a few minor tweaks put in place for this year. One of them is with the distances of the track’s two main juvenile prep races for their premier 2-year-old offerings – the Del Mar Debutante and the Del Mar Futurity. The Deb prep, the $200,000 Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 5, and the Futurity warm-up [a $200,000 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 11] both have been shortened in distance to six furlongs from their previous standard of six and one-half furlongs. Additionally, two California-bred races, the $100,000 Generous Portion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies and the $100,000 I’m Smokin Stakes for 2-year-olds, have both been restricted to non-winners of a stakes race of $50,000.
As in previous summer seasons, five of Del Mar’s key stakes have been scheduled as Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races, meaning a victory in any of them will guarantee the winning horse an entry, with all fees paid, in the corresponding Breeders’ Cup divisional race, along with a travel bonus if the horse is based outside Kentucky. One of the “Win and You’re In” races is the TVG Pacific Classic, which guarantees admission to the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Besides the $600,000 winner’s share of the purse, the victorious TVG Pacific Classic horse also has his or her pre-entry and entry fees to the BC Classic covered as well as a travel bonus – either $10,000 [national] or $40,000 [international] granted to a Breeders’ Cup horse for the capstone event of the Breeders’ Cup programs held at Churchill Downs this year on Nov. 2 and 3.
Besides the TVG Pacific Classic, Del Mar’s other stakes with direct Breeders’ Cup ties are the $300,000, Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes on Saturday, July 28; $300,000, Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes on Sunday, July 29; the Del Mar Handicap and the Grade II, $200,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs on Aug. 25.
The track once more will race five-days-per-week [Wednesday through Sunday] for the entire summer, finishing with a six-day week concluding on the Labor Day holiday. Post time throughout the session will be the normal 2 p.m. with the exception of Fridays when the first race goes off at 4 p.m. for the first five of those days, then at 3:30 p.m. for the last two.