The 2020 racing season continues Saturday, October 31st and runs through Sunday, November 29th.
The Del Mar racetrack has the distinction of being North America’s Number One track in terms of attendance and handles for more than a decade. Daily average attendance has been in the 30,000-plus level for the past few years and improvements to the track are expected to boost this number even higher in the future.
Daily average handles are estimated to be near the $13 million mark and growing.
Check the schedules at www.dmtc.com, or click the link at the bottom of this page for exact details.
Race Track Opening Day
Tens of thousands of people come to Del Mar each race season to bet on the thoroughbreds. They can bet on the races taking place at the track, or they can go over to the Del Mar Surfside Race Place for year round betting on tracks around the world.
While many are seasoned horse players and gamblers, many are also new to racing or occasional bettors and are more interested in the ambience and beautiful scenery of the historic Del Mar Racetrack. For those new to thoroughbred horse racing, there are many resources for the handicapper to learn. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club's website offers everything for the beginner to learn handicapping, how to read the program, evaluating the horses and their history, the jockeys, even the type of track they run on and how that affects their performance. You can do all this without losing a dime!
For those who are looking for other gaming options, there are many casinos within a few hours’ drive that offer slots, video poker, blackjack, poker, roulette and many other gambling choices. These casinos also offer some excellent entertainment, lodging and dining. Some of the larger casinos include Barona Resort & Casino in Lakeside, Sycuan Casino in Escondido, Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Harrah’s Rincon Resort & Casino in Valley Center & Viejas Casino in Alpine.
Unlike horseracing, where you can learn how to play without losing your money, going to the casinos is the real deal. No play money, the real thing.
From its opening,
Del Mar quickly established itself as a playground for the stars. Among the
Hollywood icons who spent long hours in the Del Mar racetrack were such luminaries
as Dorothy Lamour, W. C. Fields, Paulette Goddard, Edgar Bergen, June
Haver, Ann Miller, Don Ameche, Ava Gardner, Red Skelton, Bing Crosby, Pat
O’Brien, Desi Arnaz, and Lucille Ball.
Del Mar racetrack
is home to a host of riding greats. Arguably the most notable of them was
the legendary William Lee “Bill” Shoemaker. He was the
very first apprentice to claim the track's riding title in 1949 and went
on to achieve record-breaking feats at the Del Mar racetrack for forty years. Johnny
Longden is another pillar of Del Mar racetrack’s distinguished
history. He became the world's winningest rider in 1956 and was passed only
by Shoemaker in 1970. A recent riding hero is Laffit Pincay, Jr. Notable
trainers who have made big marks in Del Mark racetrack include Charles
Wittingham, Farrell Jones, Robert Frankel and Bob Baffert.
racing is as wonderfully compelling
and complex as you want to make it.
Some people come
specifically to watch the horses run and do not bet. No Thoroughbred can
start at a recognized pari-mutuel track unless it is registered with the
Before a Thoroughbred
foal is approved, the registry requires that the color and all markings be
clearly set forth in the application, such as a star, blaze, stripe, snip
and stocking. A lip tattoo is also necessary. The tattoo is required before
the horse ever races.
Many fans love
the pageantry and attend the races to visit the paddock where the horses
are saddled. In this area, the owners gather to watch their horses and the
horses are led around so that everyone can see their condition.
do not miss watching horses in the paddock. They want to know if their future
wager is walking well, looks healthy and is relaxed enough to win a race.
It is here that the jockeys come out, get instructions from the trainers
and then are booted up onto the horse.
Mar Racetrack History
In the 1930's, the Depression affected Del Mar, as well as the rest of the country. However, in 1933, in spite of the grim times, the eight members of the 22nd Agricultural
District had a vision for a county fairgrounds to be located in Del Mar, which set the town on its current path. These eight intrepid visionaries were successful in purchasing the current site with a $25,000 grant from the State Department of Fairs & Expositions and the first county fair was held in October 1936.
Even before the first fair was held, it was felt that the addition of a racetrack
to the fairgrounds would be an asset and would be self-supporting.
Because of the climate and the seclusion the area offered, film stars were frequent visitors to the area. Among them was Bing Crosby, who was a racing enthusiast, and he turned out to be instrumental in the development of the Del Mar Racetrack.
He and the fair board agreed on a lease arrangement with the newly created Del Mar Turf Club for $35,000. Serving on the Turf Club's first Board of Directors was Bing Crosby as President, Pat O'Brien as Vice President, with Oliver Hardy, Joe E. Brown, Gary Cooper, Leo McCary and others serving on the executive boards.
The initial funding met with repeated setbacks and Bing Crosby and Pat O'Brien put up personal loans against their own life insurance to the fair district without interest at one point. When the Del Mar Racetrack opened on July 3, 1937, it enjoyed
a very successful opening day.
The track enjoyed moderate success from its opening, but the race that put Del Mar on the map was a race pitting Seabiscuit, from Charles Howard's stable, against the best thoroughbred of the day, Ligaroti. Seabiscuit won and set a new record for the distance in that race.
Crosby & O'Brien's money and influence are what made the modern day Del Mar racing season so successful, and as a tribute to Crosby, his corny song title, "Where the Turf Meets the Surf" is played before post time each day. By the way, the City of Del Mar adopted that saying for its motto. To listen,
click here...(requires Real Player software to play)
Where the Turf Meets the Surf
My Racetrack Memories
Ahh – the
racetrack! Memories of the track are very strong. I spent all my summers
near or at the Del Mar Racetrack. Back then, the slough was pretty smelly
- in fact at night, when the wind blew offshore, the stench was overpowering!
I recall the smell vividly, and the muck when we slipped off of the planks
crossing the end of 23rd St to get to the track. Lost a few tennies to that
muck - your foot would sink so quickly and deep that pulling it out meant
your shoe would remain there forever after.
Then there was
the time as a young boy my friends and I built a raft out of driftwood planks
and ‘poled’ across the slough, imagining ourselves as modern
day Tom Sawyers & Huck Finns.
We used long
bamboo stalks, and glided under the old railroad bridge during our Huck Finn
years, instead of taking the (long gone) pedestrian bridge that emptied out
near Bing Crosby Hall; riding our bikes around the parking lot, dodging the
track security guards (who were almost all local teachers working for the
One year my brother
Bruce, who was 12 years old , set up a lemonade stand outside the main entrance
to the track and was soon on the front page of the local paper. He became
quite a celebrity, with his little white sailor hat and the sign “Bruce’s
Juices” bringing in tons of quarters until the local food service union
at the track had him shut down.
This was during
the years Burt Bacharach and Angie Dickinson lived on the beach at 26th St.
Burt was an avid horse racing fan as well as a thoroughbred owner, and Burt
and Angie became friends with Bruce. He was often visiting them and I remember
taking him to the Hollywood Bowl for his birthday present one year. We saw
Burt and his orchestra in concert, then went backstage to his dressing room
after the show. I was impressed that Burt was genuinely glad to see my little
brother, and invited us back to spend time with him as he received all his
well wishers after the show.
Many years later,
I ended working at the fair, then the racetrack, working as a Teamster parking
cars for a ridiculous hourly wage (probably 3 times more than I’d ever
made at other jobs) plus tips!
What a great
job that was – and I have some great stories that I’ll share
later! This was the early 70’s and the times were – ahhh – different.
The parking lot
was run then by Jack “Big Daddy” Lyons, beloved by all, and each
year the boys in the lot (eventually there were a few women, too) held a
tribute to Jack, called “Big Daddy Night”.
Daddy Night", very late, I remember sitting in the bar of the old Steakhouse
Restaurant in Solana Beach with some of my co-workers (located right about
where Solana Beach City Hall is now), and at the piano was Hoagie Carmichael,
playing "Stardust" for Jack and some of the older guys. Hoagie
had seen better days and also had a bit to drink, but I’ll never forget
the song. It really didn’t mean much to me then, but now as a huge
jazz fan, it was an historic moment.
Union Tribune's Nick Canepa on Del Mar
Here's a classic
article from Nick Canepa
DEL MAR – Since
1937, when Bing Crosby shook the hand of the first paying sucker, they have
been coming to this racetrack to bet the ponies and be seen outside Max Factor's
digs. You know, the stars, starlets, followers and the false hopes trying
to get their names spelled right, and everyday Joes and Josephines with stars
only in their eyes.
They have come
to Del Mar. And they continue to come. Not so many stars anymore, although
the choo-choo from Hollywood still runs south, but that's OK, too, because
there aren't so many stars anymore. What we get now are those who have it
made, those who have had it made for them, those who have made it, those
who act as though they have, and those who have what they have – just
enough to risk too much of it.
Opening day at
Del Mar may be our most eclectic sporting event. It is so much of what we
are and so much of what we are not. Opening day offers a spectacular melting
pot, from limos to Yugos, minks to finks, earls to Earls, spiffs to stiffs,
touts to louts. Damn, it's a great day.
At a time in
horse racing history when handle is up and attendance is down, when tracks
have to find other ways to draw (slot machines), Del Mar remains a great
lure. All it has to be is itself. It's more than opening day. It's Del Mar,
and that works like a long shot winning in a hand ride.
There is no one
more qualified to discuss the lure than Joe Harper, now in his 29th year
as the track's boss. He's Southern California-smart, not a bad thing. A child
of Hollywood, where Harper grew up, his grandfather was legendary film director
Cecil B. DeMille. I can't see Harper without starting our conversation with
the great line from “Blazing Saddles,” when the Waco Kid deadpans: “I
must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille.”
it's a mixture of nostalgia and Hollywood and beach and sunshine,” Harper
says. “Once you sprinkle enough pretty people in here it begets more.
We've done as much as we can to promote it for a little bit of everyone,
not just the old-time handicappers, but ladies and gentlemen and children
of all ages. And it's worked.
to get an identity. You have to market yourself so people go for a broad
reason, and hopefully keep it. Santa Anita was such a grand old dame, art
deco, with a martini-and-Cole Porter feel to it. And it lost it. The perception
here is that it's a place to party and maybe see a celebrity or two. I think
it's pretty much what Bing had in mind.”
Der Bingle had
a good time in mind when he and Pat O'Brien opened Del Mar as a summer place
to attract their fellow Tinseltown swells, the horsey set and the players.
But Del Mar and Saratoga are the hearty among the endangered species. This
is an off-track game now.
20 percent of bets take place at the track,” says our ace handicapper,
Bob “Eisenhower” Ike. “Eighty percent is bet at either
simulcast locations, phone betting or Internet accounts. Hollywood Park is
like a morgue now.”
Del Mar is aces
The gates are
scheduled to open at 11:30. The mob begins to enter at 11:27, jumping the
start. Immediately there are 10 people in line for margaritas. There is the
annual The One and Only Truly Fabulous Hat Contest, featuring more feathers
than there are in Arkansas. One woman has a hat that is a hot air balloon.
Makes for an easy escape when you tap out.
gatecrasher Dion Rich, wearing the worst jacket in opening day history. “It
is terrible,” he admits, not caring, as usual. Sartorially, he's a
boil on the neck of this crowd.
swings by. Someone recognizable. “The Chargers are going to be good,” Tark
says. He said the same thing in 2004. Dead on. One optimist who wasn't a
Time to head
down to the Turf Club, where the elite meet on opening day to show off their
finery and chapeaus and drop names of their plastic surgeons. But there is
plenty enough of what Mother Nature has wrought to suit me.
It is a beauty
pageant, only with more beauty – and money and pageantry. And it's
jammed. The hats are more stylish this year, classier, not as outrageous,
although there are a few. I get brushed in the face with tentacles hanging
from a wild hat. I'm fine. I've had my shots.
On opening day,
the Turf Club at Del Mar is up there with Yosemite, Niagara, Yellowstone
and fall foliage in New England – if you're into viewing beautiful
You can get fat
(and hopelessly sick) from so much visual confection, so it's back upstairs
for the first race.
like me, although I like them, as everyone knows. I can't ever recall winning
the first race on opening day. Hard to remember winning a race. To me, betting
on the nags is a complete waste of time, and – much worse – money.
I box a trifecta.
Pays $105. It's an easy game.
Del Mar loves
me, after all. Nick Canepa: (619) 293-1397; firstname.lastname@example.org