* Heading into the fifth week of its 37-day summer meet, Del Mar officials announced huge double-digit gains in both on-track attendance and handle for the first 20 days of the meet.
Average daily on-track attendance was up 11.8 percent and daily handle showed an increase of 12.8 percent heading into Wednesday’s nine-race card. Per-day attendance, 16,645 through the first four weeks last summer, stood at 18,607, with the inaugural Free and Easy Wednesday programs keying that increase. With no Monday racing at Del Mar for the first time since 1946, average on-track attendance on Wednesdays was up 42 percent and handle had shown a 30 percent increase with the lure of free general admission, programs and seats and half-price on hot dogs and drinks. The free general admission and lower concession prices were not in effect on the track’s opening day, Wednesday, July 22.
“We’e tickled with the response our fans have given us so far at the meet,” Del Mar president Joe Harper said in a statement. “We put several new things in place ahead of our opening — dropping our Mondays and shifting to five days a week, our Free & Easy Wednesdays, extra races on other cards — and the response has been excellent. Besides, we have much of our best racing to come, including a blockbuster Pacific Classic Racing Festival on Labor Day weekend, so we’re hoping to keep riding the wave all the way home.”
* Einstein, winner of the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap in March and one of the top older male horses in training, is still listed as possible for the Pacific Classic on Sept. 6. Einstein, third in the Stephen Foster Handicap in June and fifth in the Arlington Million over a yielding turf course in his most recent start, reportedly has been training well over Arlington Park’s Polytrack surface. If Einstein does come west for the Pacific Classic, he’ll likely remain in Southern California for the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 6-7 if all goes well. Hollywood Gold Cup winner Rail Trip, the talented Colonel John, San Diego Handicap winner Informed, Eddie Read Stakes winner Global Hunter, and Awesome Gem, second in last Sunday’s Longacres Mile, are all likely Pacific Classic starters.
* Jockey Alex Solis is enjoying a strong Del Mar meet, sitting in a fourth-place tie in the jockey standings with Joe Talamo at 14 wins apiece heading into Wednesday’s card. Solis won both graded stakes last weekend, pulling into a tie for fourth on Del Mar’s list of all-time stakes winners with Bill Shoemaker and Eddie Delahoussaye at 94 wins. Laffit Pincay Jr., Solis’ idol, is third with 95 stakes victories.