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All About Del Mar Racetrack

There is a reason why many people say that San Diego is one of the greatest places to live. There aren’t many cities in the United States that have the combination of attractions and things to do that San Diego offers. Throw in the Pacific Ocean and unbelievably good year-round weather, and you are talking about one of the sweetest places on Earth.

Few areas in the San Diego County are as breathtakingly gorgeous as the “beach city” of Del Mar. The first thing people think about when you bring up Del Mar is undoubtedly the historic racetrack that the town is centered around. Have you been to the Del Mar Racetrack? Do you know how much fun people have there?

This article is designed to explore the racetrack that lurks just a few miles north of San Diego. We want to talk about the history of the track getting started and tell you all about what the racing facility is like. After we talk about features of the racetrack, we’ll get into the big races that come to Del Mar annually.

We’ll give you a few tips on getting to the property and more importantly how to get in on the betting action once you arrive. The racetrack in Del Mar is unlike any other in the country. Enjoy the following sections as we tell you why.

Overview of Del Mar Racetrack

Year Opened
Del Mar, California
22nd District Agricultural Association. Operated by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Course Type
Thoroughbred Racing, Dirt and Turf tracks
Notable Races
Pacific Classic, Del Mar Oaks, Bing Crosby Stakes, 2017 Breeders’ Cup
Official Website
Look at the Starting Gate at the Del Mar Racetrack

Del Mar Racetrack Opens in 1937

We can thank the talented actor and singer Bing Crosby for bringing a racetrack to Del Mar. In fact, Crosby was actually waiting out front to welcome the patrons on August 12, 1937, the day the gates officially opened.

By 1940, Del Mar Racetrack was a hotspot for Hollywood celebrities to visit. Del Mar had gained popularity amongst the actors and actresses as a vacation spot, and the racetrack was the place they went to be entertained. After a short closure during World War II, the course reopened and immediately became a fixture on the horse racing calendar.

As the years went on, Del Mar became known as the “Saratoga of the West.” Many big-time races with huge purses were held at Del Mar, and Thoroughbred owners and fans of the sport didn’t want to miss out.

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, the operators of the racetrack, have continued making improvements and updates to stay current with the ever-changing trends.

A big move came in 1984 when Del Mar decided to make South African sportscaster Trevor Denman the voice of the racetrack. The racecourse in the southern Californian beach city was seriously putting themselves on the map in terms of major racetracks in the country.

Understanding they needed to attract a much younger demographic, diligent efforts were put forth towards their marketing. They came up with different ideas, including using the motto “Cool as Ever” and “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” when referring to the grounds. They decided that being known as the hub for the most lavish and fashionable outfits was a good way to attract women of all ages, and boy, did it work.

Hiring Canadian model and jockey Chantal Sutherland was another key move that they made, further pushing Del Mar Racetrack into the upper echelon of horse racing facilities.

The advertising was so successful in bringing in a new crop of people to the track that Stanford Business School has actually vigorously studied those marketing efforts made on the behalf of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Their goal is to find out what similarities can be transferred over to other racetracks and sporting venues to help gain the attention of a younger and more female-driven crowd.

As far as all the big events and why men and women can’t get enough of Del Mar Racetrack go – we will get into that, don’t worry. First, we need to explain what the track looks like and mention some specific details.

Characteristics of the Racetrack

When you look at the details of the racetrack, you will quickly notice that the track can be adapted to fit different types of races. The main track measures one mile and encircles the smaller turf course, which is seven furlongs. That is a fancy way of saying it is 7/8 of a mile, for all our non-horse-racing buffs.

The outside track is made up of dirt, but it hasn’t always been that way. From 2007-2013, Del Mar went with an artificial surface made up of a combination of silica sand, recycled rubber, and synthetic fibers. In 2014, they decided to move back to the more traditional dirt track, which is what is featured today.

How the Tracks Are Laid out at Del Mar Racetrack

The stabling area is large enough to house 2,000 or more Thoroughbreds, while the grandstand is beautifully positioned along the Pacific Ocean. The original grandstand was eliminated, and a new one was built in 1991. The stunning structure is one of the signatures of the track in Del Mar. The atmosphere makes this racetrack one of the most desired venues racing enthusiasts will encounter, period.

Del Mar Racetrack – Significant Races

While this isn’t the site of the Preakness Stakes or one of the other Triple Crown races, Del Mar Racetrack has unquestionably still made a name for itself. There is a plethora of major events that take place here, including some extremely popular Grade-I stakes races. The highly-acclaimed Breeders’ Cup was hosted at Del Mar in 2017, so of course we will cover those two days.

Read along to learn about the three most well-known Grade-I stakes hosted every year in Del Mar.

Pacific Classic

The Pacific Classic is a featured event on the Grade-I stakes racing calendar – there is no doubt about it. This event is designated for all Thoroughbreds ages three and up. The 1 ¼-mile race began in 1991 after the renovations to the new grandstand were completed. Right from the start, this race has offered a monstrous $1 million prize pool, so it’s no wonder everyone in the Thoroughbred racing industry wants to get involved.

The Pacific Classic takes place in August, with the winning horse earning a direct spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic later in the year. There have been some incredible performances at the Pacific Classic, perhaps none more impressive than Candy Ride’s record-setting run in 2003. His time of 1:59.11 broke the record for the fastest time in this event, and that’s not all.

His jockey that day, Julie Krone, became the first female jockey to win the Pacific Classic in its history.

Fast forward to today, and no other women have led their horse to “victory lane.” We have seen three horses capture this race twice, each time coming in back-to-back years. Tinners Way got it done in 1994 and 1995, while Skimming won the race in 2000 and 2001. Most recently, Bob Baffert trained Richard’s Kid to triumph in 2009 and 2010, both under the watchful eye of jockey Mike E. Smith.

Smith has since added another win aboard Shared Belief in 2014, giving him four wins here as a jockey. This ties him with Garrett K. Gomez for the most wins by a jockey in the Pacific Classic.

Del Mar Oaks

Three-year-old fillies (female horses) have their eye set on the $300,000 purse event in Del Mar every August. When the event was inaugurated back in 1957, it was a one-mile race on the dirt track. In 1965, the race was lengthened to what you see today.

Now this event lasts 9 furlongs, or 1 1/8 miles. Aside from only being open to fillies, this event takes place on the turf course as opposed to the outside dirt track. Being that only three-year-old female horses can compete, it is impossible for a horse to win this event multiple times. We have, however, seen three jockeys be victorious at the Del Mar Oaks on four occasions.

San Diego native Charles. E. Whittingham trained seven winning horses while Howard B. Heck was the proud owner of four. Both of these marks are records respectively. Our favorite record is certainly the one set by Amorama in 2004. Her time of 1:46.26 was nearly matched the following year when Singhalese crossed the finish line in 1:46.29.

Bing Crosby Stakes

Another Grade-I stakes race with $300,000 up for grabs, we have the Bing Crosby Stakes. It’s not hard to figure out where this race received its name. It was time they create a race in honor of the man responsible for creating Del Mar Racetrack. Thus, in 1946, the Bing Crosby Stakes was born.

This race is meant for horses who are three years old and up, whether they are males or females. At only 6 furlongs (3/4 of a mile), it isn’t as long as your typical Thoroughbred race. That hasn’t stopped it from producing highlights year after year.

The first-ever Bing Crosby Stakes actually wound up in a dead-tie, something we don’t often see in horse racing. War Allies and Indian Watch finished the race nose-for-nose in a time of 1:11.40. As you can imagine, in 1946 we didn’t have the same technology as we do today.

Unable to slow the action down and watch an instant replay on a big screen, they crowned both horses as champions.

Both Bob Baffert and Bruce Headley have trained four winning horses at the Bing Crosby Stakes. When jockey Corey Nakatani steered In Summation to victory in 2007, it marked his fifth time winning the Bing Crosby Stakes as a jockey. This matched Louisianan Ed Delahoussaye for the most wins by a jockey at this event.

Don’t look now, but Flavien Prat is right on their heels after winning three straight Bing Crosby Stakes from 2015-2017. We wouldn’t be surprised if the French native is able to chase these two men down in the years to come.

2017 Breeders’ Cup

If you pay any attention to horse racing, you likely know about the Breeders’ Cup. The two-day festival of horse racing is an annual competition that rotates around the most illustrious horse racing venues in the country. It’s thirteen races in all, with four being held on the first day and nine taking place on the second day. It has been hosted in the United States every year since its inception in 1984, other than the 1996 edition at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada.

After some successful outcomes at Santa Anita Park (also in southern California), the Breeders’ Cup moved to Del Mar Racetrack for the 2017 event. November 3-4 were the two days everybody had circled.

The Breeders’ Cup Was Held at Del Mar Racetrack in 2017

The culminating event, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, offered an outlandish six-million-dollar purse. That was just a portion of the $21.5 million that was on the line if you combine all nine races the second day at the Breeders’ Cup. You can quickly get the idea why people care about this race so much.

Four-year-old stallion Gun Runner was the victorious horse at the Classic and earned his owners at Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm a huge chunk of that six million. Forever Unbridled took home first place in the $4 million Distaff event, dedicated to three-year-old fillies and elder mares.

The money and excitement that surrounded the 2017 races give the folks in San Diego hope that the Breeders’ Cup will be on its way back to Del Mar sometime soon.

Del Mar Racetrack – You Can’t Beat the Location

Not that we have to do any sort of convincing to get you to schedule a trip to sunny San Diego, but we are going to touch on a couple of the highlights. Obviously, the sandy beaches and amazing weather are right there at your disposal. You have Petco Park, home of MLB’s San Diego Padres, right smack dab in the middle of downtown. If you like wildlife, head to the San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld to see things you have never seen before.

Of course, the coolest part of all is the racetrack in Del Mar.

Make sure to save enough time to experience some of the other attractions we listed, but the granddaddy of them all is the Del Mar Racetrack. To get there, all you have to do is head about 15-20 minutes north of San Diego, and you run right into it. Just make sure you hug the coastline, as this lovely piece of property is located right alongside the Pacific Ocean. The I-5 freeway will be your go-to route to get to the track.

If you’re heading north from San Diego, then you can’t miss it on your left-hand side. Traveling from somewhere else? That’s fine, too. The great thing is that you don’t have to fly to San Diego to get to the racetrack; there are plenty of other options.

The A-listers in Los Angeles shoot down the “5-South” for about 115 miles in a limousine. A couple glasses of wine and a few inappropriate stories later and the celebs are there in no time. The fact that the Del Mar Racetrack is so centrally located in southern California makes this destination an incredibly attractive spot for vacationing.

Racing season lasts from the middle of July through the early portion of September. You can expect to see races five days a week, with the track being closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. During the non-racing season, expect to be able to see concerts and other live shows on the regular.

The bottom line is that there will be no shortage of things to do at the race track. Getting bored in the beach town of Del Mar is simply not a possibility. We almost forget to tell you that there’s a bunch of money to be made!

Time to Make Some Money Betting at Del Mar

The racetrack in Del Mar has taken all necessary steps to allow the spectators to bet on races for real money. And, yes, this IS legal, despite what you may have thought.

There are betting windows where you simply announce to the teller what your picks are and hand over your cash. Don’t want to wait in line or talk to a teller? That’s okay. There are self-service windows, too, and even a betting app you can use on your tablet or mobile device.

to gather any and all information when it comes to placing bets at Del Mar Racetrack. There’s no need to worry about HOW to make a bet at the track in Del Mar, as it couldn’t be easier or faster. You just need to worry about picking the winning horse!

For those of you that want to bet on races Del Mar without making the trip, you’re in luck, too. Most of the top US horse racing betting sites allow you to place your wagers without leaving the comfort of your home. How’s that for convenience?

Final Thoughts to Consider

Are you still here? You haven’t left for Del Mar yet? If you had, we wouldn’t have blamed you. Between the immaculate weather and the beach, you won’t have to twist your friends’ or families’ arms too hard to get them to schedule a trip.

Getting to the Del Mar Racetrack is very practical. Driving from San Diego or Los Angeles makes the most sense, and you will want to head there in August, as that is when the featured races take place. The oval-shaped setup consisting of an outer dirt track and an inner turf course is fairly typical when you look at some of the other setups at the most renowned horse tracks in the US.

Knowing when the major races are is important. Equally significant is knowing how to place wagers on those events when you get there. Horse racing and betting go hand-in-hand. We made sure to cover our tracks with a dedicated section on betting information.

Having fun at the Del Mar Racetrack is an absolute given; mark our words. Winning a bunch of money…now that part is still up to you!

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