Del Mar Racing season is all about the horses but, on Opening Day 2017, the seaside track in San Diego's North County will be, as usual, all about the hats.
More than 40,000 horse racing fans are expected to attend Del Mar Opening Day on Wednesday, many sporting their flashiest, most ornate toppers for the 23rd annual Opening Day Hats Contest.
This year, the colorful competition takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Plaza de Mexico inside the Stretch Run admission gates. The contest is free to watch, and those who are interested in participating can register at the event for free.
One by one, contestants will strut their stuff, showcasing their fancy, elaborate hats as they compete to win their share of more than $5,000 in total prizes.
The competition includes five categories, with contestants judged on creativity and style: “Most Glamorous,” “Best Racing Theme,” “Funniest/Most Outrageous,” “Best Fascinator,” and “Flowers/All Other.”
This year, first place winners in each category will receive a $300, plus a Studio Savvy gift basket valued at $250. Second place winners will walk away with $200, while third place winners score $100.
The biggest winner of the day – the Bing Crosby Grand Prize winner – will receive a one-night stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar and a multi-course dinner for two with wine pairings at Del Mar’s lavish Addison Restaurant. This prize is worth more than $1,000.
According to organizers, the Opening Day contest was officially established in 1995. Each year, the competition is fierce with hardcore hat enthusiasts turning out by the droves to show off their creations.
Many spend months meticulously designing that perfect hat to match their Opening Day attire flawlessly. Year after year, hundreds of participants enter the Hats Contest, making it the place to see and be seen on Opening Day.
Tickets to Del Mar Opening Day cost $15 per person; the first horse race is at 2 p.m.
The 2017 Del Mar Racing season runs through Sept. 4, with the track closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. General Stretch Run admission tickets cost $6 per person. On most Fridays and Saturdays throughout the season, entertainment includes a concert on the Seaside Stage after the final race of the day.