Preview: 2014 Del Mar Races

This summer, the Del Mar Racing season runs from July 17 through Sept. 3

And away they go!

The 2014 Del Mar Racing season kicks off July 17 and this means the famous seaside track will be filled with the following: fancy hats, horses, close bets and concerts.

Event organizers say Opening Day, which is on a Thursday rather than Wednesday this year, is expected to draw 45,000 revelers decked out in dresses, suits and, of course, big, colorful hats.

The annual “Hats Contest” will celebrate its 20th anniversary, so seriously top-notch toppers are certainly expected.

Besides the horse races, the Del Mar Races will also boast an array of food, family-friendly activities, racing seminars and the annual Summer Concert Series. Check out the musical lineup here.

Also, visitors can also expect a couple of beer festivals this season, including the San Diego Craft Beer Fest on July 26 featuring more than 100 craft brews, including more than 40 locally-brewed suds. This event will go down in the Seaside Concert Area west of the Grandstand at 1 p.m. Entry is free with track admission and for another $18 attendees receive five 7-ounce beer tastings.

Another round of beer tasting will hit the track on Aug. 24 for the International Beer Fest boasting more than 100 craft brews, including 40 samples from around the world such as Belgian wheats, Irish reds and German pilsners.

That beer fest happens at the same time, same place as the first. Once again, entry is free with track admission and five 7-ounce samples can be purchased for $18 per person.

As for track snacks, a “Donuts and Del Mar” event is set for both July 19 and Aug. 13 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. While getting a behind-the-scenes look into the world of Thoroughbred racing from a track announcer, attendees will be treated to free coffee, orange juice and donuts. Jockeys and trainers will be on hand to answer questions while the horses partake in their morning workouts.

On Aug. 16, the track will host the 4th annual Gourmet Food Truck Festival featuring eats from 50 food trucks from the San Diego and Southern California area. The foodie affair runs from noon to 6 p.m. at the Seaside Concert Area, with gourmet items ranging from about $4 to $8.

For those who also enjoy wiener dog racing as much as horse racing, the Del Mar track will also host the Wienerschnitzel Wiener Dog Nationals on Aug. 30. The 16 fastest pups will compete for the title of top dog in San Diego County. The winner advances to the National Final.

By the way, if the turf looks a bit different this year, it’s because it is. Del Mar will debut its brand-new seven-furlong turf, a wider racing surface that accommodates more horses.

The new and improved turf helped make Del Mar eligible for to host the 2017 Breeder’s Cup Championship in an announcement made last month.

Oh, and we can’t forget the basics of the track: Racing takes place Wednesday through Sunday each week, with post time for the first race usually set for 2 p.m., except on Fridays when first post is at 4 p.m. The track is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The final day of Del Mar Racing is Sept. 3.

Finally, a little track trivia for the history buffs:

The Del Mar track opened 77 years ago on July 3, 1937. On Aug. 12, 1938, the track was put on the map when Seabiscuit’s historic win of a match race. The track grounds were repurposed for military use from 1942 to 1944 as the U.S. fought WWII.

On Aug. 10, 1996, the track hosted its largest crowd yet – 44,181 spectators – as an intense race went down. Champion Cigar attempted to surpass Citation’s record of 16 straight wins but in a stunning upset, Dare and Go shocked visitors.

After the summer race season ends, locals can look forward to a new, short, fall season from Nov. 7 through Nov. 30.

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