As countdown to the first post for Del Mar Race Track's thoroughbred season gets underway, fashionistas are gearing up. Since this is the single most popular day in Del Mar to get dressed up, getting ready is a full-blown, Hollywood-style event that includes buying a new dress, shoes and, of course, a fabulous hat. Some even hire manicurists, makeup artists and hair stylists. For many, looking great on Opening Day is not an option, it's a necessity.
Iconic Jenny Craig, a woman who truly loves horses and has been involved in horse racing her entire life, goes to Opening Day with her husband, Sid Craig, every year. One of the biggest highlights for the Craig family was when their horse, Candy Ride, won the Pacific Classic in 2003. This year, two-year-old horses sired by Candy Ride will be racing on Opening Day. Jenny's preparation for Opening Day begins with an early breakfast. She generally has her hair done the day before and has two outfits ready and waiting. The final decision will be made that morning, depending on the weather. In keeping with the tradition of wearing a hat, which was made famous by the Kentucky Derby's Opening Day, she takes great care in selecting the perfect one. She'll take it off for the ride to the track and put it back on as she exits their personal limo. "The first thing I do upon arrival at the track is start handicapping and praying," Jenny said.
La Jolla Ladies
La Jolla resident Sally Thornton, philanthropist and owner of Thornton Winery, says the most important thing about Opening Day is to be well groomed. She is a fourth generation San Diegan and started enjoying the thrill of race season with her father as a teenager. Now, she always attends with friends. The preparation begins well in advance as she gets her hair and nails done a day or two before the big event and spends the week assembling several outfits to be available to decide on that morning, depending on her mood. Sally buys hats to be worn at the races at various times during the year. Many times she alters them to make her own creations. Her philosophy is, "If you see it and like it, grab it." Fellow La Jolla residents Mary Walker and Carol Karlovich, say they make it their business to look fashionable whenever attending the races, especially Opening Day. They are Turf Club members and get to Opening Day early, putting in their bets upon arrival and making their exit after the fifth race. When preparing her outfit, Mary Walker says she only thinks of pleasing herself and has several special made hats she wears throughout the entire racing season. Mary and Carol both agree Opening Day is the best event of the year for wearing hats and people watching.
The Mad Hatter
As is customary, many women attend Opening Day wearing fun, elegant and distinctive hats that are as noteworthy as the action on the track. Last year's One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest winner, Lori Shelton, has been attending Opening Day and entering the hat contest since 1996. She prepares at least a month in advance for what she calls the "most fun event of the year", with the emphasis being on her hat. Her Opening Day outfit and transportation revolves around her hat – she has to ride in her husband's Expedition, because her Volvo isn't big enough to transport her hat! In the past, she has made extreme hats, including her favorite – an actual ceiling fan in which she replaced the blades with Styrofoam and placed a sign on it saying, "Del Mar's Ultimate Racing Fan." Last year's winning hat featured a stuffed horse and a large rose covered horseshoe that weighed 14 pounds. Advil was needed the next day, she said.
Arriving in Style
When just a limo won't do, how about a helicopter? That's what Nancy Bello and her friends are planning this year. They will be flying in from Nancy's home in Newport Beach (she also has a home on Del Mar Beach) and landing at the Grand Del Mar. From there, they will load into waiting limos and head to the track early. Prior to, Nancy and her friends will have their make-up done at Neiman Marcus. It needs to last until evening because they'll conclude the day with dinner at Mille Fleur in Rancho Santa Fe.