Mark Glatt won his milestone 1,000th race last Friday at Del Mar when jockey Edwin Maldonado guided Zestful to a gate-to-wire victory in the third race, the only horse the 47-year-old trainer saddled that day.
Glatt, a fixture on the Southern California scene for the past 20 years, is young enough to enjoy more milestones in the future, but the wins may become harder to come by with less and less racing days on the calendar.
There was a time, not that long ago, when Del Mar raced six days a week. Santa Anita was in action five days per week. Those days, mainly because of a dramatic drop in the Southern California horse population, are long gone. Whether they ever return is a topic up for debate.
“We have to focus on how to get the horse inventory built back up,” Glatt said during a 30-minute telephone interview this week on the eve of Del Mar’s annual holiday weekend Turf Festival. “That is a primary concern. Especially when Southern California is one of the most expensive places for ownership to maintain a horse.
“Our purses aren’t following suit with a lot of different places throughout the country. In order for the horse inventory to get back to anything (close) to what it was, I think we would have to see a substantial increase in purse money.”
Many other race tracks throughout the country augment their purse sizes through revenue from slot machines.
For instance, Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto was offering $100,000 for maiden special weights during the summer. Del Mar is running a maiden special weight this weekend for $57,000.
But California tracks can’t install slots and siphon funds from alternative gambling to help the purse structure because of state law. Santa Anita announced last week that it is raising its overnight purse distribution 10 percent for its 2020-21 meeting, and that’s a start, but Glatt says the racing industry in California needs additional help to attract new owners.
“We’ve corrected a lot of the other issues,” he said. “We’ve seen a tremendous decrease in breakdowns through the different protocols that have been put in place. I think some have helped. I don’t think some have made a difference, but certainly the numbers are trending in the right direction, and that’s a good thing.
“There’s a lot to be grateful for and there’s a lot of good things about California, but the financial difficulties for horse ownership and doing business in general in California is making it harder and harder to stay. I think it’s going to be a challenge to get the horse inventory back up to a level that is suitable to continue racing.”
A possible solution?
“How do we attract new horses and new people to come to California? It’s going to be a challenge because of the toughness of the racing, the cost of living for people and the cost of maintaining a horse,” Glatt said. “Hopefully, there’s a way the state can help us, (maybe) through instant racing machines like they’ve got in other places.
“Our purses are based solely off pari-mutuel wagering. So it’s hard to compete with some of these other race tracks, where it’s a lot cheaper to race and a lot cheaper to operate and you’re running for a fair amount more money in a lot of categories.”
Glatt is scheduled to run two horses this weekend when Del Mar cards seven graded stakes, all on the turf. The first, the $100,000 Grade III Red Carpet Handicap for fillies and mares, was run Thursday during the track’s special Thanksgiving Day card.
He has Tartini entered in both today’s $200,000 Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup and Saturday’s $200,000 Grade II Seabiscuit Handicap. He wasn’t sure Wednesday which race the 6-year-old gelded son of Giant’s Causeway will go in, but it will be his first start under Glatt’s care after he was transferred to the Monrovia resident’s barn when his former trainer, Jack Carava, left the training ranks to become Tyler Baze’s agent.
“He’s won three of his last four and he’s training quite well, but I have to say we’re asking a lot of him in either race. Both races came up extremely tough, and so whether he’s up to competing against horses of this caliber in either one of those races remains to be seen.”
On Sunday, Glatt will saddle Beer Can Man, a recent private purchase by Little Red Feather Racing, in the $100,000 Grade III Cecil B. DeMille Stakes for 2-year-olds.
“It will be his first start around two turns, so we don’t know what to expect for sure,” Glatt said. “The horse is training well. He’s won his last two and he likes the turf, but he hasn’t stretched out yet. That’s always a big question for a young horse, whether they can pick up the ground. We’ll see if he can get the two turns.”
The two marquee events of the weekend are a pair of $300,000 Grade I races — the Hollywood Derby on Saturday and Sunday’s Matriarch Stakes on closing day of Del Mar’s fall Bing Crosby meet.
Follow Art Wilson on Twitter at @Sham73
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