Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

And They're Off: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Welcomes Back Hats and Horses

The event kicked off Friday and continue through Labor Day

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It’s the summertime sporting event equestrian aficionados look forward to, with fans allowed back in the stands this yea -- the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club returned Friday for its opening day.

Following 2020’s unconventional racing event with no spectators, the track in Del Mar welcomed ticket holders at the highly anticipated event. This year’s opening day ran under half capacity from how it normally operates -- about 17,000 fans -- but organizers were excited for fans’ return, nonetheless.

Sights and Sounds: First race of 2021 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

“Let me tell you, last year it was so strange,” said Craig Dado of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. “We had a grand total of zero people on opening day, so to have 16-17,000 today, we are so excited to have people back. It’s going to be a great day.”

Rebecca Smith claimed the honor with her rose fascinator, which was inspired by her grandmother, once named the Rose of Indonesia. Four contestants took home a prize on Friday for their elaborate headware.

CEO Joe Harper said there may be general admission entry at some point during this racing season. There may also be a return of concerts and other events, but at least for now, no concerts were on the calendar.

There are still plenty of events to look forward to at the track, like the Taste of the Turf Club and the Uncorked Wine Festival. Information on special events can be found here.

Horse racing is back in Del Mar and that means it's a party at the track after a year-long hiatus because of COVID-19. NBC 7's Allison Ash was at the course.

First post for the 82nd racing season was at 2 p.m. Friday, with jockey Abel Cedillo riding Leprino to victory. Honoring tradition, hundreds of hopefuls and others faced off in their fascinators at the Opening Day Hat Contest, which offered fashion-lovers the chance to win more than $4,000 in prizes.

Joe Harper, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club's CEO and president, talks about the recovering from the pandemic, what to expect on Opening Day -- including the hat contest -- and offers hope for fans of the Friday concerts the track typically books but had to shelve, at least temporarily, this year.

The racing season will last through Labor Day and those who are interested in attending a race are required to purchase a seating package in advance by phone or online. Unlike previous years, people will not be able to buy tickets at the gate the day of the races.

An independent animal activist and the track's chief marketing officer provide opposing perspectives on the sport of horse racing. Warning: This video contains a photograph some may find disturbing.

To purchase tickets online, click here.

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