With the Breeders’ Cup providing the year’s finishing touch for the first time since 2017, Del Mar announced a 2021 summer stakes schedule featuring a 30% purse increase over 2020.

Del Mar 2021 summer season
Del Mar opens its 2021 summer season on July 17. The San Diego-area track will offer 34 stakes races worth $6.75 million. (Image: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club)

Some of the purse boost comes from two stakes returning from a 2020 hiatus – the Grade 3 Cougar II Stakes and the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf. Both carry $100,000 purses.

Those two bring Del Mar’s 2021 stakes races to 34, carrying a total purse of $6.75 million. That’s up from last year’s $5.175 million. Due to the pandemic, Del Mar cut its stakes purses on several races, including on the flagship Grade 1 Pacific Classic. Knocked from $1 million to $500,000 last year, the Pacific Classic gets a $250,000 boost to $750,000.

Other significant purse increases include a doubling of the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile, from $150,000 to $300,000. The Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap (to $300,000), and Grade 2 San Diego Handicap (to $250,000) enjoy $100,000 purse raises. All told, Del Mar raised purses on 21 of its 34 stakes.

Del Mar’s stakes aren’t the only richer races

“This is one of the strongest stakes schedules in Del Mar’s history,” Del Mar Racing Secretary David Jerkens said in a statement. “We have increased purses virtually across the board.”

The stakes increases come a week after Del Mar announced it plans on increasing overnight purses by 30%. That’s one factor playing a part in a Southern California racing market losing horses, jockeys, and trainers to Eastern and Midwestern tracks. Overnight races — your maidens, maiden special weights, and allowances — may not get the attention of stakes races, but they comprise roughly 85% of a track’s card.

Del Mar Key 2021 Summer Stakes Races

Race Grade Distance Eligible Horses
July 17 San Diego Handicap II 1 1/16 miles 3-Year-Olds and Up
July 31 Bing Crosby Stakes I 6 furlongs 3-Year-Olds and Up
Aug. 1 Clement L. Hirsch I 1 1/16 miles 3-Year-Olds and Up Fillies & Mares
Aug. 21 Pacific Classic I 1 1/4 miles 3-Year-Olds and Up
Aug. 21 Del Mar Oaks I 1 1/18 miles (turf) 3-Year-Old Fillies
Aug. 21 Del Mar Mile II 1 mile (turf) 3-Year-Olds and Up
Aug. 21 Del Mar Handicap II 1 3/8 miles 3-Year-Olds and Up
Aug. 28 Pat O’Brien Stakes II 7 furlongs 3-Year-olds and Up
Sept. 4 Del Mar Derby II 1 1/8 miles (turf) 3-Year-Olds
Sept. 5 Del Mar Debutante I 7 furlongs 2-Year-Old Fillies
Sept. 6 Del Mar Futurity I 7 furlongs 2-Year-Olds

Del Mar opens on Saturday, July 17 with three stakes headlined by the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap. Joining that race, won last year by Maximum Security in his first race for Bob Baffert, are the Runhappy Oceanside Stakes, and the Los Osunitas Stakes.

Six Grade 1s span the summer

The first of six Grade 1 summer events is the Bing Crosby Stakes on Saturday, July 31. The Clement L. Hirsch Stakes follows the next day. The Pacific Classic and Del Mar Oaks headline on Saturday, Aug. 21. Closing weekend brings the final two Grade 1s, the Del Mar Debutante on Sunday, Sept. 5, and the Del Mar Futurity on Monday, Sept. 6.

Five of the stakes races are Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series races, convenient with the Breeders’ Cup visiting Del Mar on Nov. 5 and 6. The Clement L. Hirsch sends its winner to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

The Del Mar Handicap sends its winner to the Breeders’ Cup Turf. The Bing Crosby Stakes winner gets a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The Pat O’Brien comes with a spot in the Dirt Mile, and the Pacific Classic sends its champion to the flagship Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Del Mar’s summer season opens on July 17 with a Saturday-Sunday card. It then goes Thursday through Sunday up until closing day on Labor Day, Sept. 6.