By T. D. Thornton
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (DMTC) president Josh Rubinstein told the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) Sept. 24 that he expects the track will no longer have to rely on hand-timing turf races at its upcoming fall meet because its inaccurate Equibase Gmax GPS timing system has since been tweaked to fix problems that produced numerous wrong clockings throughout the summer season.
TDN reported back on Aug. 18 that some dirt and turf final times at Del Mar were mis-clocked anywhere between .07 seconds and 1.19 seconds by the industry’s official data-keeper during an August portion of the meet. Those times—initially derived from global positioning metrics—were retroactively hand-clocked, adjusted, and reposted as official without any public disclosure of the corrections.
In an Aug. 20 statement, Equibase acknowledged “inconsistencies” in its Del Mar turf clockings, but said its dirt timings were “highly accurate.”
At that time, Equibase also stated that its Del Mar chart callers would utilize hand-clockings for turf races for the remainder of the meet, which wrapped up Sept. 7.
The Gmax system had just been installed prior to the July-September season. It’s used at 11 other North America racetracks.
“On the turf, when rail positions were moved, there were some challenges,” Rubinstein said Thursday in response to a direct question about the accuracy of the Gmax system from CHRB vice chair Oscar Gonzales.
“So when we discovered the issue we hand-timed our turf races for the final week and a half [of the meet],” Rubinstein continued. “And [since] the conclusion of the summer meet, over the last two weeks, our turf course is being re-surveyed digitally. And that [data] will be installed into the new Gmax GPS system.
“We expect no problems with turf timing through the GPS system this fall,” Rubinstein emphasized.
“The main track was terrific,” Rubinstein added. “All of the [dirt] GPS times checked out with our backup hand-timed system.”
Gmax debuted in North America 2018. But problems date to at least 2019, when early-adopter Laurel Park discontinued its usage of the system for a period because of inaccuracies, according to an article earlier this month in The Racing Biz.
CHRB commissioners did not press DMTC officials any further on the issue on Thursday after Rubinstein’s assertion that the upcoming meet would be timed problem-free.
The Del Mar fall meet will span 15 race dates from Oct. 31-Nov. 29.
Tom Robbins, DMTC’s executive vice president for racing and industry relations, said stabling will open Oct. 25, with the main track open for training the next morning.
“Unlike the summer meet, where we usually stable around 1,900 horses, the fall meet is largely a ship-in meet with about 350 to 400 horses stabled on-site,” Robbins said.
Last week DMTC announced a 10% overnight purse hike compared to the same autumn meet last season. The reason cited was increased handle revenue.
Robbins also noted that “because of better-than expected business from the summer meet, four stakes races that appear in our license application at reduced levels [the GI Hollywood Debry, GI Matriarch S., GII Seabiscuit H., and GII Hollywood Turf Cup] have been restored to their previous levels.”
With regard to the purse hike, DMTC racing secretary David Jerkens said that “in today’s climate, with many tracks that are cutting back across the country, this is an accomplishment.”
Alan Balch, executive director of the California Thoroughbred Trainers, asked the CHRB to extend the previous race-meet agreement for Del Mar even though one isn’t currently in place, as is required for the track’s licensure.
“We’ve made ourselves available for further conversations and negotiations so we can try to get this resolved,” Balch said of the necessary contract. “But I would want to take this opportunity [to] express the trainers’ appreciation for [track management’s] continued efforts to improve the conditions at Del Mar.
Balch, in particular, lauded Del Mar’s “Ship and Win” bonus program.
“They’ve constantly monitored the objective data, and I just want to emphasize the point [that this bonus program] benefits all of California racing, and it’s critically important [to bringing] more horses to California.”
The CHRB unanimously voted to give Del Mar the go-ahead for its fall meet.