La Jolla native Soha Dokainish checks out horses in the paddock during last year's Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
After 80 seasons, the turf still meets the surf at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. What began as a Hollywood hotspot in the era of the racetrack’s founder Bing Crosby has blossomed into one of today’s premier Southern California summer destinations.
While famous faces and traditions have come and gone, the seaside oval continues to stand the test of time with its unparalleled entertainment and energy. When Del Mar opens its gates on Opening Day July 17, thousands of visitors will get to experience an action-packed seven weeks filled with live music, craft food and beer, cocktails and high stakes competition running through Labor Day Monday, Sept. 2.
Known for its Kentucky Derby vibe set along the Pacific Ocean, Opening Day at Del Mar attracts thousands of fans to celebrate the official start of summer with big bets, and bigger hats. As one of San Diego’s long-standing traditions, fashion-forward trendsetters come dressed to the nines — from head to toe — for the Opening Day Hats Contest, where fans with extravagant headpieces will compete for more than $5,000 in total prizes.
The summer festivities continue throughout the season with concerts featuring top entertainers, festivals highlighting incredible bites and booze, and buzz-worthy races showcasing the nation’s leading Thoroughbreds, trainers and jockeys.
Offering some of the best entertainment in the region, Del Mar’s Summer Concert Series gives fans the chance to catch a free show most Friday and Saturday nights. This year’s impressive lineup includes Grammy-award winning reggae star Ziggy Marley on Saturday, July 20, country crooners Midland on Saturday, July 27 and alternative reggae rockers Iration on Saturday, Aug. 3.
All concerts are 18 and up and free with the purchase of standard $6 racetrack admission. For concertgoers entering after the day’s final race, admission is $30. Performances begin shortly after the last race of the day.
In addition to free concerts, Del Mar brings together the best of San Diego’s culinary and craft beer scenes with a variety of events. Beer enthusiasts will enjoy Burgers and Brews, which features the region’s top craft breweries and restaurants on Saturday, July 20; wine lovers will soon become connoisseurs after having the opportunity to sample a variety of top-notch wines and champagnes at Uncorked: Del Mar Wine Fest on Saturday, July 27; and barbeque aficionados will have the opportunity to devour dozens of smoked meats at Del Mar’s Turf & Surf BBQ Championship on Sunday, Aug. 18.
With something new every week, spending a sunny afternoon at Del Mar is always a sure bet. From Free and Easy Wednesdays, where guests receive free admission, a free seat and a free program, plus deals on tallboys and Brigantine tacos, to Friday Happy Hour, where all signature drinks are half-off from gate opening until 6 p.m., the famed racetrack keeps fans coming back for more.
Every weekend at the seaside oval makes for a fabulous family outing, but children and parents won’t want to miss Del Mar’s Family Fun Day and giveaway on Sunday, July 21. Packed with numerous free attractions for the family in the spacious Infield, little ones will be able to climb rock walls, ride ponies, ride down inflatable slides and much more.
Midway through the season, Del Mar will present the richest day in racing with the highly-anticipated, $1-million TVG Pacific Classic on Saturday, Aug. 17. The mile and a quarter Grade I testing is one of the west’s foremost prizes and eligible to attract several of the best Thoroughbreds in the country.
The day is made even sweeter with a giveaway. Diamond Club members will receive a free heavyweight Mexican-style beach blanket on Pacific Classic day. Diamond Club is free to join and provides big discounts at the track all season long.
Summer racing at Del Mar takes place Wednesday through Sunday with the one exception of Closing Day on Labor Day Monday. First post daily is 2 p.m., except on Friday’s when first post shifts to 4 p.m. (exceptions being Aug. 23 and 30 when first post shifts to 3:30 p.m.). For more information, call 858-755-1141 or visit DelMarRacing.com.