Book celebrates ‘Del Mar at 75’

By Kathy Day

Del Mar at 75 bookcover

As the Del Mar racetrack gears up for its 75th season opening on July 18, all sorts of special activities are being planned. But there’s one that will last beyond closing day — a carefully crafted book of memories that captures the essence of a day in the life of the legendary track.

“Del Mar at 75: Where the Turf Meets the Surf” was the brainchild of photographer Barry Myers of Bethesda, Md., who admits to attending a horse race only once before he started on the project. When he shared the idea with his cousin Jay Privman of Encinitas — the national correspondent for the Daily Racing Form who is decidedly better informed on thoroughbred racing – the plan started to gel.

Privman knows the staff at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club well from covering the season there for years. As an 11-year-old on a family vacation, it’s also the first place he ever saw a horse race.

Four years ago, Privman approached his friend Craig Dado, the club’s senior vice president for marketing, about the idea of “capturing the ebbs and flows to the season.” Then, to paraphrase Trevor Denman, away they went.

“The Del Mar experience is so visual,” Dado said. “We’ve always wanted to do a coffee table book so when Jay, who’s an award-winning writer, talked to me and (DMTC President) Joe Harper about it, we decided we had the right team.”

Myers, a retired commercial photographer who had little experience shooting sports but lots doing portraits, said he wanted to show more than just the racing. He wanted more about who the people are and what their daily routines were.

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To accomplish his goal he spent 60 days over the past four racing seasons, from sunup to sundown and beyond looking for the photos that told the story. Myers said he wanted to be there for at least part of every day of the season, including the week before and a couple of days after closing day.

In the acknowledgments he wrote: “From the beginning, I saw this project as a documentary, an aggregate day in the life of a great race track, where 3,800 workers, 2,100 horses, and more than 650,000 fans come together during a season …”

Privman’s words help tell the story.

“Del Mar has such great allure, from its founding to the great atmosphere next to the ocean and the fun things after the races,” he said. “I didn’t want the project to be just a history book.”

While there is a chapter on the storied history that serves as an introduction and a chapter on “Zenyatta: Del Mar’s Best Ever,” the emotional ride of the book is from early morning to evening as the jockeys and staff do their part and the crowds react and enjoy all the sideline activities. The book includes many of the landmark Del Mar shots – ladies in their hats on opening day, people poring over racing forms, lines at the betting windows, the Party in the Paddock.

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