Del Mar's 68th Annual Horse Race Opening Day 2007 Review - Hold Your Horses

The enormous hats, dainty sun dresses, and chic linen suits packing the vibrant atmosphere almost made me forget that Del Mar's 68th Annual Opening Day included some horse races!  The beautiful people of Southern California flooded the legendary Del Mar race track in record breaking numbers - 42,842, beating out last year's crowd of 42,005.  Thank goodness this years' weather was  cooler than last years' as I spent what seemed like hours crawling across town in a ridiculous parade of limousines and party buses.  (Okay, so maybe I was jealous that I wasn't in one of those limos.)

This season, Del Mar unveiled the new all-weather Polytrack synthetic racing surface.  It has the texture of natural dirt with a lighter color.  It is a mixture of sand, synthetic fibers and recycled rubber coated with a microcrystalline wax.  This cutting-edge surface boasts a high shock absorption rate and a low elasticity repulsion rate despite the weather condition.  While slower, such a track is considered much safer for the horses.  Polytrack only needs to be evened out two to three times per day, which beats grading a dirt track before every single race.

What would Opening Day be without hats, hats, and more hats?!  As I entered the courtyard area, men and women alike donned some crazy head gear in hopes of winning The One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest sponsored by Virgin Vine Wines.  From a fish bowl hat to a race track hat complete with a human jockey, track goers expressed their unique celebration of Opening Day.  Lori Shelton of San Diego, after entering the contest for 11 years, finally won with her multi-colored feather design crowned by a massive rose horseshoe.  (Hopefully, she had a session scheduled with her massage therapist later that day after carrying that thing on her head!)

My journey began trying to grab a drink to kick of the festivities, which proved to be a long and arduous process.  Luckily, there was no lack of interesting characters to hold my attention—"fashion don'ts" were running rampant.  Once my thirst was temporarily satisfied, my trek for food consisted of more of the same—a social parade through the sea of designer sunglasses in the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.  I finally came across the Coors Light Party tent to rest my weary high-heeled feet; the beach-themed sand-filled floor was perfect along with barbecue, betting, a DJ, and…more long drink lines.

I did actually spot a few serious betters calculating their wagers throughout the day, crouched over their books and oblivious to the social affair swirling around.  Three-year-olds to win three divisions of the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes were Special Smoke, Ten a Penny, and Vauquelin.  Special Smoke beat Freedom Summit by a half-length to win the $53,400 race, Ten a Penny beat the Unusual Suspect by more than a length to win the $84,200 race, and Vauquelin beat Yario by a length to win the $87,300 third division race.  Jockeys, Victor Espinoza and Corey Nakatani, each won three races on Opening Day.

Half-way through the race, the crowd was already buzzing about the parties and bars to attend afterward.  Opening Day seemed to be more of an occasion to socialize and be seen than watch horse races.  I personally made my way to a crowded bar in downtown Del Mar to celebrate the day with more beautiful people dressed to impress.  (Why let the claustrophobia end?  After all, my toes were only slightly black and blue.)

For those of you not familiar with the track, it is in quite possibly my favorite place in the continental United States.  Del Mar is located 20 miles north of downtown San Diego, and 100 miles south of Los Angeles on I-5.  "Where Surf Meets the Turf," Del Mar's track holds a spectacular view of the classy beach city and coast along with a romantic sea breeze.

If you'd like to take in a race, Del Mar's 2007 season is runs Wednesday, July 18th through Wednesday, September 5th (dark Tuesdays).  Admission starts at $10 (seat not included).  The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club also has a 2007 Del Mar Summer Concert series with musical acts like The Cult, Angles & Airwaves with San Diego-based front man Tom DeLonge of Blink 182, and the Violent Femmes.

For more information, please visit www.dmtc.com

Photos by Lawrence Davis and Jill Reil


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