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Del Mar to limit entries in juvenile maiden races
A day after the New York Racing Association announced it would limit the number of starters in 2-year-old maiden races this summer, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and the Thoroughbred Owners of California reached a similar agreement Wednesday.
NYRA said it would allow eight 2-year-olds in maiden sprint races at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., hoping to have “more cleanly run events” and “more high-quality races.” In the past, 2-year-old races could have as many as 12 horses.
Del Mar will limit the number of starters to 10 in maiden sprint and route races. The new rule won’t apply for stakes races.
“I have been trying to get Del Mar to do it for years,” trainer Bob Baffert said by email Wednesday. “It’s a great idea. Young horses can’t develop as well in large fields.”
Tom Robbins, Del Mar’s executive vice president, racing/racing secretary, said the TOC approached him three or four years ago to reduce the field for 2-year-olds, but it was never approved by the TOC.
“Del Mar has been OK with it, but it was not passed by the TOC,” Robbins said.
That changed on Wednesday.
“(We) have agreed to limit the number of starters in all maiden 2-year-old races to 10,” TOC president Lou Raffetto Jr. wrote in an email, “with the understanding that all such races with 16 shall be split as long as it does not stop another book race from going.”
Raffetto said the TOC planned to agree to the change before New York announced its new rules.
Robbins said Del Mar couldn’t unilaterally put in a rule without “dealing with the owners and trainers in the state.” He said limiting fields to 10 2-year-olds seemed to be a perfect compromise.
“What if you said eight and the ninth or 10th horse didn’t get in?” Robbins said. “You have a lot of mad people.”
Oceanside’s Jeffrey Bloom, whose Bloom Racing LLC owns five 2-year-olds in syndication, thinks the change will have little effect.
“Sure it’s nice to have a shorter field,” Bloom said, “but I don’t see a need to go lower than 10. I don’t think it will have a significant impact.
“To have fewer than 10 could be a problem. It’s not rare to have two or three scratches in a 2-year-old race due to sickness or injury. You could be down to five or six horses.
“A lot of 2-year-olds have some experience (by the time the Del Mar meet is run) so traffic in race is a standard part of racing.”
Del Mar’s implementation of the new rule could affect the track’s profit. Races with more horses usually generate a higher betting handle. Still, Robbins said Del Mar is willing to take that risk.
“We have never had a problem with that,” Robbins said. “Everyone is aware of it and on board. It’s all good.”
Del Mar runs from July 18 to Sept. 5.
CORRECTION: In the original posting of this story, it was stated that Tom Robbins approached the TOC about reducing the field for 2-year-olds. However, the TOC approached Robbins. We apologize.
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