Big, flashy hats, horses and jockeys in Del Mar could only mean one thing: Del Mar Racetrack season is upon us.
Thursday marks Opening Day of the 76th season of the horse races in the seaside community located 20 miles north of downtown San Diego. The day will bring thousands of spectators to the track in their best outfits, including unbelievable hats primed for the famous annual Opening Day Hats Contest.
This year, the Del Mar racing season runs for a total of 40 days through Monday, Sept. 7. Racing takes place Wednesday through Sunday, plus an added racing day on Labor Day Monday. The first post is at 2 p.m. daily, with the exception of Friday, when first post is set for 4 p.m. The track opens each day two hours before first post, giving patrons a chance to enjoy the racetrack.
Besides horse racing, the track will host many other events throughout the season, including 18+ summer concerts that are free with paid track admission (or $20 per person after the last race). This year, the lineup includes The Wallflowers (July 17), The Wailers (July 24), The OffSpring (July 25) and Weird Al Yankovic (Aug. 28), among many performers.
The racetrack will host two craft beer festivals, one on July 25 and the other on Aug. 29. The brew fests will run from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the western end near the Seaside Stage and will boast more than 40 craft brewers, including local favorites like AleSmith Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Co. and Ballast Point Brewing Company, to name a few.
More than 100 craft beers will be available for sampling. Entry to the fest is free with regular racetrack admission. Once there, attendees can purchase five 7-ounce samples of the brews for $20. Pre-sale packages are available online.
Another notable day is the $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 22, which draws a robust racing crowd. “Supersized Family Fun Day” is set for July 19, which will boast lots of free attractions for the entire family. Racetrack admission is free for kids 17 and under.
On Aug. 15, the track will host a Gourmet Food Truck Festival from noon to 6 p.m. in the Seaside Concert Area. The event will feature 50 food trucks from all over Southern California offering delicious eats for $4 to $8 per item.
When planning your trip to the track, remember this: Stretch Run Daily Admission to the track, without a seat, is $6 per person, while Stretch Run Reserved Seats are $5 to $10, depending on the race day. Active duty military members get free Stretch Run Admission with proof of ID. General Parking at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is $10.
The first-ever Opening Day in Del Mar was on July 3, 1937, when Bing Crosby welcomed patrons at the front gate.
Since then, Del Mar has been one of the leading tracks in the U.S. when it comes to daily attendance. In 2014, the average daily attendance was 16,535 patrons. In 2014, Opening Day brought 42,021 patrons to the track.
Other noteworthy moments for Del Mar include Aug. 12, 1938, when Seabiscuit won the historic $25,000 winner-take-all match race that put the seaside track on the map, and Aug. 10, 1996, when the track hosted its largest crowd ever – 44,181 – who watched a stunning upset by a race horse named Dare and Go as horse Champion Cigar attempted to surpass Citation’s record of 16 straight wins.
On Opening Day last year, the track debuted a new, wider turf course that accommodates more horses and makes Del Mar eligible to host the Breeder’s Cup. This year, the track will debut a brand-new dirt course, replacing the 7-year-old polytrack surface on its main track.
For more information on Del Mar Racing season, visit the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club's website. NBC7.com will host a livestream of the Opening Day Hats Contest on Thursday here.