Betting on fun: Del Mar racetrack ready for start of new season
For Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Chief Executive Officer Joe Harper, the annual race meet where the turf meets the surf needs to be about more than just winning and losing.
“You just can’t go out and market your product because you’ll get the kind of hard-core racing fan and nobody else, so we have a party,” he said in a recent interview.
The 2010 version of that party officially starts Wednesday at the Del Mar racetrack, with the Oceanside Stakes as the highlight of the Opening Day racing program. It continues through Sept. 8, ending with the traditional Del Mar Futurity. In between will be special events, promotions and concerts featuring the likes of Weezer, ZZ Top and Jimmy Cliff to go along with all of the day’s races.
“I always say we’re making a lot of new fans for Del Mar, I’m not sure we’re making new fans for racing,” Harper said.
In a sign of the economic situation, racing will occur five days a week instead of six. Harper said it enabled DMTC to save $2.5 million in payroll and nobody lost a job. Stakes were also lowered in 13 races, but not for the headlining $1 million Pacific Classic.
But what may lack in prize money for the jockeys is well made up for in entertainment for the fans. Each day will entail a different feature, including free admission on Wednesdays. The Miss Cougar Del Mar contest, which, as the release puts it, crowns the best “self-proclaimed mature single woman on the prowl,” will take place July 30.
“All those crazy things we do, they all seem to work, even the cougar concept,” Harper said.
That still doesn’t mean the racing itself won’t still be a major draw. There is even a chance that the undefeated Zenyatta will race in the Aug. 7 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes, which she has won the last two years. Harper said in a speech to the Del Mar Rotary Club that while no commitment has been made, he is “pretty sure that’s their plan.”
“You never commit with a horse because you don’t know what’s going on,” he said, adding that he was hoping she would run in the prestigious Pacific Classic “against the boys.”
“She’s certainly capable,” he said.
Speaking of the marquee race of the season, the DMTC decided to return the Pacific Classic to its traditional part of the schedule in late August. The race will take place on Aug. 28 as opposed to last year, when the DMTC was disappointed after experimentally scheduling it during Labor Day weekend.
While the 2010 race meet ends in September, Harper said he could foresee the fall Oak Tree meeting, currently at Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia, coming to Del Mar in 2011. He also said the DMTC, which has put on the races locally for the last 41 years, is the only organization he knows of that has applied for pre-approval with the California Horse Racing Board for a lease renewal next year.
“Hopefully we keep this thing going,” he said.
For a full list of races, entertainment and scheduling, visit www.delmarscene.com.
Wednesday, July 21
- 71st Annual Opening Day. The ‘One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest’ takes place, with more than 40,000 expected in attendance.
Sunday, July 25
- The Second Annual Harley-Davidson Ride to the Races to benefit the Aseltine School for children with learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. Also, Family Fun Day at Del Mar.
Friday, July 30
- Cougar Day, honoring ‘self-proclaimed mature single women on the prowl.’ Candidates can submit their entries at www.delmarscene. com beginning July 14. Event coincides with the Cougar II Handicap, which is the longest race of the meet at 1 1/2 miles.
Saturday, July 31
- Sweat shirt giveaway
Saturday, Aug. 14
- The Cool as Ever Tech Event. Celebrating social media and all things tech. Details and costs TBA. Also, Reggae & Beer Festival.
Saturday, Aug. 28
- The $1 million Pacific Classic. Del Mar’s highest purse race, drawing some of the most accomplished horses in the nation. Also taking place is the Craft Microbrew Festival and 94.9 Local Music Showcase.
Monday, Sept. 6
- The Weiner Dog Nationals-San Diego Finals will determine the fastest weiner dog in San Diego. Also, Jockey Photo Day.
- Stretch Run and infield area: $6. Includes program. There are a limited number of free unreserved seats available in the Stretch Run area. Active-duty military and dependents free with I.D.
- Stretch Run and clubhouse reserved seats: $5 on Wednesdays and Thursdays; $8 on Fridays; $10 Saturdays, Sundays and Labor Day; $15 Opening Day and Pacific Classic Day, available at ticket window in Stretch Run Plaza area.
- Clubhouse admission is $10 and includes program.
- Diamond Club memberships are available on site each day, allows half-off admission each day of the meet.
- Advanced seat sales for any day may be reserved or bought at the ticket office in the operations building. Call (858) 792-4242 or (877) LETSBET.
- Group sales: Skyrooms, Clubhouse, Stretch Run, Seaside Tropical Cabana and infield group areas may be reserved through the Group Sales office at (858) 792-4234.
Mark your calendar: Daily special deals
- Free and Easy Wednesdays. Diamond Club members only. Provides free grandstand admission with a reserved seat, a free program and half-priced beer, soda and hot dogs. Excludes opening day.
- Thursdays are Seniors Days, which includes free “Stretch Run” admission, a seat and a program. Also each Thursday, attendees can win a cruise to Mexico during the Carnival Cruise Contest. Two names will be chosen to watch the seventh race from the winner’s circle and select the horse they believe will win. The person whose choice finishes closest to first wins the cruise.
- Fridays and select Saturdays feature the Del Mar Summer Concert Series. Post time is 4 p.m. for the first four Fridays, 3:30 p.m. the final three Fridays. Free concerts every Friday and select Saturdays after the last race. Lineup includes Weezer, ZZ Top, The B-52s and Jimmy Cliff. Beer fests on Aug. 14, 21 and Sept. 4. Microbrew fest on Aug. 28.
- Every Sunday plus Labor Day are Family Days in the infield, including pony rides and inflatable games. On July 25, kids 12 and younger receive a free Webkinz Plush Horse and can take part in a rock climbing wall, magic shows and a playground.
Races begin at 2 p.m. daily with the following exceptions:
- Four O’Clock Fridays: first four Fridays, 4 p.m.; final three Fridays, 3:30 p.m.
- Pacific Classic Day is 1 p.m. Aug. 28.
- Results, morning lines, scratches, etc. are available free at (888) 338-RACE.
- It was a bittersweet start to race season
- Organizers hope special offers will draw race crowd
- Del Mar races open Wednesday
- Track wraps up season
- Entries sought for Miss Cougar Del Mar contest
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