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Monday, July 14, 2014

What's new at Del Mar and Saratoga for 2014

The premier horse racing meets of the summer in the U.S. begin this week with Del Mar opening on Thursday, July 17 and Saratoga on Friday, July 18.  Both tracks offer some of the highest daily purses in the country and they are meets that many horse racing fans look forward to all year.  (Click here for my Del Mar vs. Saratoga blog from last year)

Even though both are already successful, both tracks look for ways to improve and/or attract more fans and this year is no exception: 

Del Mar
- Probably the biggest and most notable change at the seaside track is the widening of the turf course.  This will allow 12 horse fields for routes and 10 for sprints.  This also allows them to start 14 if need be and that helped them qualify to host a Breeders' Cup which will be held in 2017. 

- Instead of the usual local Beer Fest, this year they will have an International Beer Fest including brews from Germany, Ireland and Belgium.  Look for this event to add even more excitement on Pacific Classic Day Sunday, August 24.

- The takeout for Double wagers will be reduced from last year's 22.68% to 20.00%.  While this is still higher than Santa Anita, at least it is a reduction and it is lower than 41 other tracks in North America.

- There will be an additional meet this year running from Friday, November 7 through Sunday, November 30.  With Hollywood Park closing last year, Del Mar received the extra days.  It will be interesting to see how the locals respond to Autumn racing.

- Nearly $2 million in capital improvements were set for this year including 500 HDTV's, three high definition video walls, expansion of the Saratoga Porch dining area and the high-tech horse position viewer Trakus.  While Saratoga is one of the oldest tracks in America, it is nice to see them "step up" and modernize the facility.

- Admission prices will be raised to $5 Grandstand and $8 Clubhouse.  While I don't personally agree with the price hike, I understand they are running a business and at least they have made improvements to the facility.  At least they still have general parking for free.  

- Local television channel MSG+ will host its new "Friday's Live from Saratoga" show every Friday of the meet and a special Sunday edition Aug 24.  Horse racing television exposure has been lacking for years and this could help attract new fans.

- The Pick 5 wager will kick off in the first thoroughbred race of each racing day with a 15% takeout.  This wager has proven popular around the country and they attracted large pools at the recently concluded Belmont Park meet.

I'm looking forward to some exciting racing from both tracks with their large fields and top-class Stakes.  While I live too far from Saratoga, I look forward to going back there some year and I will attend Del Mar as much as possible (which is fortunately only about a half-hour drive for me).  

If you are looking for handicapping analysis for both Del Mar and Saratoga, check out Today's Racing Digest.  The Del Mar edition includes workout analysis and handicapping analysis for each runner.  The Saratoga edition (which is what I write) includes exclusive speed and pace figures along with selections and analysis.  Sign up for a FREE account today!