By Kelley Carlson and Halie Johnson
Del Mar's 70th race season got off to a bittersweet start this year. Opening Day, July 22, saw record attendance with 44,907 people, but a jockey was injured and a horse euthanized when it broke its leg in the third race of the season.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano was seriously injured when his mount, Mi Rey, stumbled. The horse had to be euthanized. Bejarano was released from Scripps Memorial Hospital's intensive care unit on July 24 and is still recovering from surgery for multiple facial fractures.
The previous attendance record of 44,181 was set in 1996 during the running of the Pacific Classic, according to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Last year's attendance on Opening Day was 43,459.
In his first graded stakes win, Global Hunter ran down favorite Monterey Jazz in the stretch to win the Grade I Eddie Read Stakes on Saturday.
The 6-year-old Global Hunter, ridden by Corey Nakatani and trained by A.C. Avila, held off Awesome Gem by a length to win the 1 1/8-mile race in 1:46.24. Second betting choice Whatsthescript finished third, just ahead of Artiste Royal. Monterey Jazz faded to fifth in the eight-horse field.
The victory gave Nakatani his 96th stakes victory and moved him into second place for all-time stakes wins at the track. Chris McCarron heads the list with 134 victories.
Also on July 25, Excessive Blend, with Mike Smith aboard, won the Fleet Treat Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. The winning time for the 7-furlong race run on the Polytrack surface was 1:23.43.
Two stakes events were featured on the July 26 card, both run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Meydan Princess, piloted by David Flores, won the Osunitas Handicap for fillies in 1:40.69. Several races later, Jose Valdivia Jr. guided Dewey's Special to victory in the California Dreamin' Handicap in 1:40.85.
More to come
The Wailers perform tonight as part of the Free Friday Concerts - they're free with admission to the races. The Airborne Toxic Event performs next Friday. The concerts start after the last race and are standing room only. Friday's races start at 3 p.m.
The racetrack guarantees a $500,000 Pick 4 pool every Saturday and Sunday. The 2008 Pick 4 averages were 9.7 horses per race, the pool size was $716,615 and the payoff was $16,196.
The San Clemente Handicap, for 3-year-olds fillies, takes place Saturday, and the San Diego Handicap, featuring horses age 3 and older, happens this Sunday.
Free and Easy Wednesdays are also offered for Diamond Club members - signing up is free - featuring a free Stretch Run admission, a free program and seat, and half-priced concessions.
A craft microbrew festival and 94.9 local music showcase takes place Saturday from 12 to 6 p.m. at the infield. Over 25 breweries will pour 50 different brews, with musical performances by Get Back Loretta, The Silent Comedy and Heavy Glow. Entrance is free with stretch run admission for $6.
City News Service contributed to this report.