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Thoroughbred Times

Jockeys for the Del Mar Debutaunte walk out to the paddock.

by Steve Schuelein, Thoroughbred Times. 

Joe Harper, president and CEO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, strode contentedly into the press box of the San Diego County coastal track Wednesday wearing the smile of a satisfied executive following the final race of the 37-day meet.

"It was one of those dream meets that come along very seldom," said Harper of the 75th anniversary season. "It was a very smooth meet. Numbers were good. We had the biggest purses ($687,755 per day) we've ever had."

Buoyed by a track-record 15 Pick Six carryovers and an increase in average field size from 8.4 to 8.7 horses per race, the track averaged $12,651,175 in daily handle, an 8.8% increase from $11,629,151 last year. Daily average on-track handle rose 13.3% to $2,364,187 from $2,087,141.

Favorites won at a 32% rate.

"Ship and Run worked to help field sizes," said Harper of Del Mar's program that offered monetary incentives to out-of-state shippers. "(Executive Vice President of Racing) Tom Robbins gets a star next to his name for the racing. The whole crew did a magnificent job."

The track drew a record crowd of 47,339 on opening day, but daily average attendance for the meet was 17,623, a 1.2% dip from 2011.  

Owners Arnold and Ellen Zetcher celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary by capturing the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1), the closing-day feature, with Rolling Fog. The Florida-bred Posse colt, who remained unbeaten in two starts, gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a record 11th win in the race and jockey Rafael Bejarano a record 13th stakes win for the meet.

Trainer Peter Miller sent out three winners on the final card to edge seven-time leading trainer Baffert, 21-20, for his first meet title. Bejarano was a runaway winner of the leading rider title with 52 wins.

Dullahan, winner of the $1-million TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (G1), was named Horse of the Meet in a media poll.

The track recorded 11 fatalities during the meet, one less than last year.

Looking to the future, Harper said Del Mar plans to expand its turf course in 2014 in hopes of making a bid to host the Breeders' Cup World Championships in 2015.

In view of the uncertain future of Betfair Hollywood Park, Harper said Del Mar would be interested in a "Keeneland-like, five-week fall meet" if and when the Inglewood, California track closed.

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