So the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, boasting a well-established reputation for knowing how to party, intends to make the most of a milestone summer season marking the 75-year existence of the track “Where The Turf Meets The Surf.”
The most anticipated on-track events include seven Grade I races, starting with the Eddie Read Stakes on Saturday, July 21, and highlighted by the signature $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Sunday, August 26.
Acclamation produced an unprecedented sweep of the Eddie Read and Pacific Classic in 2011. The now 6-year-old California-bred, honored with an Eclipse Award in the Older Male division for last year’s accomplishments, is back and being aimed for title defenses in both races by owners Bud and Judy Johnston and veteran trainer Don Warren.
When track founder Bing Crosby greeted the first patrons on July 3, 1937, it’s unlikely even he, of the extraordinary entertainment talent and entrepreneurial vision, could have imagined what things would be like 75 years later.
The seven Grade Is are part of a schedule of 20 graded stakes, 33 “advertised” and 10 “overnight” events with a total value of $7,775,000 (note the fitting sevens and fives there).
Three stakes races over the final two days of the meeting will mark a new link between DMTC and the Oak Tree Racing Association. The Oak Tree Juvenile Turf and Oak Tree Juvenile Fillies Turf are first-year stepping stones to Breeders’ Cup races in the fall. In addition the former Palomar Handicap, a Grade II event, has been renamed the Yellow Ribbon, a traditional Oak Tree race.
The Del Mar jockey colony will be different with the three-time defending riding champion Joel Rosario having relocated to New York. His absence could create additional opportunities for Joe Talamo, Rafael Bejarano, Garrett Gomez and Martin Pedroza – Nos. 2-5 on last year’s list. And eyes will be on Chantal Sutherland, the “face” of Del Mar’s marketing campaign in her second full season of riding at the track.
Six Hall of Fame trainers who posed for a picture in the Del Mar paddock last year – Bob Baffert, Richard Mandella, Jerry Hollendorfer, Jack Van Berg, Ron McAnally and Neil Drysdale – will be on hand with multiple equine representatives during the meeting. Mike Mitchell, who edged John Sadler for the 2011 training title and edged ahead of McAnally as Del Mar’s all-time leader for wins (454), is recovering from surgery for a brain tumor but his horses figure to make an impact, and he might even be a physical presence, during the course of the meeting.
The “overall experience” aspect cultivated by Del Mar over the decades, continues via seven Friday night post-race concerts, as well as Saturday concert specials with Cake on July 28, Ben Harper on August 18 and Ziggy Marley on September 1. And days that don’t include musical acts invariably have other specials – incorporating foods, freebies or family fun stuff.
The track’s mammoth Opening Day, which has seen attendance rise seven straight years to a record 46,588 in 2011, has taken on a life of its own as one of the biggest events in San Diego and a major milestone each year on the national racing calendar. It will, as usual, feature the “One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest,” and the 67th running of the Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on the grass.
The Oceanside, which has been run as a single race for the past three years, was split once more this time – for the 29th time – and will go as the sixth and ninth races on the 10-race card. Each has drawn nine runners.
Heading the first division are three stakes winners – Hirschmann or Wright’s Boat Trip, Mr.-Mrs. Jerry Moss’ Blingo and Everest, O’Brien, et al’s Chips All In. Heading the second half are Bloom Racing Stable’s multiple-stakes winner Majestic City and Craig Stables and Donkey Island Racing’s promising colt Holy Candy.
FACTS AND FIGURES FOR DEL MAR’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON
DATES: Wednesday, July 18 through Wednesday, September 5; 37 days of racing; dark on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the exception of Labor Day Monday (September 3).
LOCATION: At the Fairgrounds in Del Mar, west of Interstate 5, 20 miles north of San Diego and approximately 100 miles south of Los Angeles.
POST TIMES: First race 2 p.m., except on Fridays when racing begins at 4 p.m.; 1 p.m. post time on TVG Pacific Classic Day, Sunday, August 26.
HIGHLIGHTS: More than $650,000 per day in purses including over $7.7 million in advertised stakes money, topped by seven Grade I events including the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Sunday, August 26.
WAGERING: $2 Win, Place and Show; $2 Rolling Double on all races except last; 50-cent Pick Four on final four races; $1 Exacta and $2 Quinella on all races; $1 Trifecta on all races with at least four betting interests; $1 Superfectas require at least eight betting interests and are held on all races except the first in the Pick Six sequence; 10¢ Superfectas on all races with at least six betting interests; $1 Rolling Pick Three starting with first race; $2 Pick Six on day’s final six races; $1 Place Pick All; $1 Super High Five, requiring eight betting interests, on the day’s last race; 50¢ Player’s Pick Five on the first five races.
PRICES: Admission to Stretch Run (includes infield) is $6/Clubhouse is $10 (all paid admissions receive a free program, a $2 value); Opening day only – Stretch Run admission $10, Clubhouse admission $20; Admission to Stretch Run for active military with ID free every day; Stretch Run reserved seat and Clubhouse reserved seat $5 Wednesday and Thursday; same seats cost $8 Friday, $10 Saturday and Sunday and Labor Day, $15 Opening Day and Pacific Classic Day. Fifty percent discount on Stretch Run and Clubhouse admissions every day for Diamond Club members. Sign up is free at Customer Service locations inside and outside the track.