When one of his horses won a race at Hollywood Park last weekend, trainer Doug Peterson said: "That's shipping money for Del Mar."
The same day, in the paddock, Kent Desormeaux, the Eclipse Award-winning jockey, was talking about Del Mar.
"I've seen the town, but never been to the track," said Desormeaux, who came to California from Maryland early this year after winning a record 598 races in 1989.
Desormeaux was here a few weeks ago, shopping for a condominium rental. Someone suggested a $16,000 deal for the seven-week season, but Desormeaux was able to find something slightly closer to budget, and not far from the track, either.
Today, Peterson starts trying to pay for his horses' travel, and Desormeaux for the digs of his family, when Del Mar, the seven-week breath of ocean air between Hollywood Park and Santa Anita on the Southland's major racing schedule, begins its 51st season.
There's almost enough money to go around at this seaside track, where business went from brisk to bustling two years ago with the introduction of off-track betting.
Del Mar was on the verge of becoming too much of a good thing, a turf by the surf that couldn't accommodate one more bettor without attracting the fire marshal, when the state opened up betting on its races at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and points as far north as Santa Barbara.
Last summer, the daily handle, off-track and on, grew to $7.3 million, which put Del Mar in the same betting league as Santa Anita, the national record- holder.
This year, the off-track network has grown from 11 to 13 locations. The new sites are the Cabazon Indian Bingo Palace and Gaming Center in Indio, and Los Alamitos, which will segue into the Del Mar races after the Orange County Fair season ends Aug. 18.
As a result of all this action, Del Mar is offering about $14 million in purses, nearly $4 million of it in a 28-race stakes program. There are nine races six days a week, Wednesday through Monday, with the season running through Sept. 12. First post is at 2 p.m.
Sunday Silence, Criminal Type and Steinlen have gone East, but there are enough horses on the grounds to give the Del Mar stakes some glitter. Prized, Hawkster, Saratoga Passage, Brown Bess and Petite Ile are expected to run here, as well as the Southland's best 2-year-olds.
The $300,000 races are the Del Mar Derby Aug. 19, the Cabrillo Handicap Aug. 25, the Del Mar Debutante Sept. 2, the Del Mar Handicap Sept. 3 and the Del Mar Futurity Sept. 12. Also on the schedule are the $250,000 Eddie Read Handicap Aug. 12 and the $250,000 Ramona Handicap Aug. 18.
Today's split Oceanside Stakes, at a mile on grass, will have 11 3-year-olds in one division and 12 in the other, an early test of the mettle of handicappers.
Trainer Ron McAnally, who won a division of the Oceanside last year with Hawkster, has an outside chance to sweep the stake today through sheer numbers. He will have Officer Hawk and Old Alliance in the first half and Single Dawn and Balla Cove in the second.
Officer Hawk, a son of Silver Hawk, who also sired Hawkster, is trying to make the jump into stakes company, and Old Alliance has won one of three starts after spending his 2-year-old season in Europe. Single Dawn hasn't won since November, when he took the Hoist the Flag at a mile on the grass at Hollywood Park. Balla Cove hasn't won in fives race dating to January.
In the first division, Mehmetori, with only one victory in eight starts, comes in off a good second to Jovial in the Cinema Handicap at Hollywood. Jovial came off grass to win the Swaps Sunday. In the second half, Bel Air Paster also has a recent second behind Jovial.
Horse Racing Notes
The meeting's defending champions are jockey Eddie Delahoussaye and trainer Ron McAnally. . . . Only 26% of the favorites won at Del Mar last year, several points below the national average and the lowest percentage at the track since 1955. . . . This is the seventh time the Oceanside Stakes has been split in the last 10 years.
Sunny Blossom is expected to run Sunday in the six-furlong Bing Crosby Handicap, then head to Pimlico for the Frank De Francis Memorial Dash Aug. 18. . . . The other weekend stake will be Saturday's Palomar Handicap, for fillies and mares going 1 1/16 miles on grass. Bayakoa has been nominated.
A $2 exacta will be offered on all nine races. . . . Vann Belvoir, 16, one of the leading riders at Longacres, near Seattle, is an apprentice who will ride at Del Mar. . . . At Monmouth Park today, Julie Krone will ride for the first time since she suffered a broken left forearm in a spill last November. . . . Pat Day will ride Steinlen in the Arlington Challenge Cup on Aug. 4. Jose Santos, who usually rides the horse, will be serving a five-day suspension that week. . . .