The 75th anniversary season at Del Mar was one for the record books. The track opened with a record attendance of 47,339 and closed with records set by jockeys and trainers.
Opening day set the pace for the 37-day race meet when a record number of people spun through the turnstiles to enjoy the first day of racing and the One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest. On opening day, the record crowd included many in hats competing for prizes in the One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats contest won by Daniella Lopez of Imperial Beach.
San Diego resident and 2007 Grand Prize winner Lori Shelton created a spot-on replica of the blue Del Mar 75th Anniversary logo from feathers, beads and flowers. My Best Brother, owned by Solana Beach resident Bill Currin and Alvin Eisman, won a division of the Oceanside Stakes and then went on to finish second in the La Jolla Handicap before winning the G2 Del Mar Derby.
Jockey Rafael Bejarano won a record 13 stakes races during the Del Mar race meet, bettering the record of 12 in one season held by Laffit Pincay, Jr., Chris McCarron, Gary Stevens and Cory Nakatani. Jockey Joe Talamo, who finished second in the standings with 43 wins, won 12 stakes races. Trainer Bob Baffert, absent on closing day because of the death of his father, recorded his ninth stakes victory of the race meet when Rolling Fog won the Del Mar Futurity. With 11 victories in the Del Mar Futurity, he has won more than any other trainer. Baffert also leads in stakes wins at the seaside oval with 102, far more than Ron McAnally and the late Charlie Whittingham, each with 74.
Peter Miller topped the trainers’ standings, saddling the most winners at Del Mar to capture his first training title at a major race track. The race for the leading trainer title was settled on closing day. Miller saddled three winners of closing day to best Baffert, 21 wins to 20.
“The 75th Anniversary Meet was in fact the Dream Meet,” said Joe Harper, a Del Mar resident, following the last race on closing day. “There were major increases in betting handles both on track and off track, the largest purse distribution for horsemen in our history, plenty of horses which led to an increase in the number of races and field sizes, a record number of pick 6 carry overs and another record opening day crowd. Except for some pesky elevators, a pretty smooth operation.”
Throughout the season, the track’s storied history was celebrated. On Opening Saturday, a Bing Crosby look-a-like reenacted welcoming the first guest to the track, as Bing had done on July 3, 1937 when the track opened. Crosby was one of the most famous entertainers of his day. One of Bing’s grandsons, who looked more like his famous grandfather than the look-a-like, presented the trophy on Sunday, July 29, for the G1 Bing Crosby Stakes won by Amazombie.