Del Mar’s 75th racing season features new and popular traditional events

Racing season opens July 18 at the Del Mar racetrack.
Racing season opens July 18 at the Del Mar racetrack.

By Kelley Carlson

A local gem is celebrating its diamond anniversary this summer.

The Del Mar racetrack is 75 years old, and it is marking the occasion with plenty of events, new and old.

The season kicks off with Opening Day on July 18, and live racing will be held an average of five days a week — Wednesdays through Sundays, plus a Labor Day card — through Sept. 5. More than 40 stakes races valued at $7.775 million are slated during the 37-day meet, including seven Grade I events and two new races for 2-year-olds. The track’s signature race, the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic, is set for Aug. 26. The event may draw the winners of the last three editions: Trainer Bob Baffert said on July 7 that he is planning to run two-time victor Richard’s Kid (2009-10); last year’s winner, Acclamation — who was also the nation’s champion older horse of 2011 — is another possible entrant.

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Action at the Del Mar racetrack

Del Mar will hold its 75th Anniversary Celebration just several days into the season, on July 21. Each person who enters the admission gates that day will receive an envelope with free passes; one in 75 of those envelopes will contain $75. Once inside, from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico, guests can buy a signed copy of “Del Mar at 75,” a 192-page book by photographer Barry Myers and writer Jay Privman that details a “day in the life” at the track and includes black-and-white photos from the seaside oval’s early days. In honor of track founder Bing Crosby, a look-alike will perform “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” in the winner’s circle after the seventh race. Finally, film clips of the great races at Del Mar over the years will be shown on the big screens.

“It will be a wonderful day,” said Craig Dado, senior vice president of marketing, in an interview.

To further commemorate the anniversary, a full-size blanket with the special logo that’s “perfect for the beach or a picnic” will be given away with paid admission on Aug. 11, Dado said.

Additional giveaways planned during the season include a fleece pullover on Pacific Classic Day and a Webkinz Plush Horse on July 29.

Another new event for 2012 is the “race-ready” horse sale at approximately 6:30 p.m. July 22. As of July 5, 44 horses were scheduled to enter the “auction ring” — aka paddock — including 2011 Illinois Derby (Grade III) winner Joe Vann; Vanity Handicap (Grade I) third-place finisher Zafeen’s Pearl; and Mega Dream, who narrowly missed winning the Royal Heroine Mile Stakes (Grade IIT) at Betfair Hollywood Park on July 7. The catalog is at

www.barretts.com/Catalog/catdmp2012/CATALOG.htm

.

Many of the sale horses will be immediately eligible for Del Mar’s “Ship and Win” program, which is in its second year. The program awards incentives to owners of out-of-state horses who start at the track.

“This was such a winner for us last year, we knew we had to bring it back again this season,” said Tom Robbins, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s executive vice president for racing, in a news release. “We wrote those checks to 107 horses all told, and it helped turn the tide for us on field size. We brought some new horses and horsemen to the state and gave encouragement to our local horsemen to pursue runners from other venues, something we’d like to see a whole lot more of this time around.”

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