Del Mar racing season off and running July 17

Dullahan, who shipped from the East Coast, wore down favorite Game On Dude in the stretch to win the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (Grade I) on Aug. 26, 2012 by a half-length. In doing so, he set a track record of 1:59.54 for 1 1/4 miles on the Polytrack surface race. Photo/Kelley Carlson
Dullahan, who shipped from the East Coast, wore down favorite Game On Dude in the stretch to win the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic (Grade I) on Aug. 26, 2012 by a half-length. In doing so, he set a track record of 1:59.54 for 1 1/4 miles on the Polytrack surface race. Photo/Kelley Carlson

By Kelley Carlson

With smokin’ hot events planned and blazing-fast horses shipping in from around the country, Del Mar once again promises to be as “cool as ever” this summer.

“Last year was one of our best years ever,” said Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions. “We’d like to keep that momentum going, and we expect it to be great this year, as well.”

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Fans enjoy the meet in 1955. Photo courtesy of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

The seaside oval’s 74th season will commence on July 17 and continue through Sept. 4, with 43 stakes races to be run in 37 racing days. Seven of the races will carry Grade I status, including Del Mar’s signature event, the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic, which will be held Aug. 25. According to Bahr, this year’s Classic could possibly feature a rematch between 2012 winner Dullahan and runner-up Game On Dude, one of the top older horses in the nation.

Also on Pacific Classic Day, there will be a long-sleeve T-shirt giveaway, but with a bit of a twist — for the first time, the design will be created by a racing fan.

People can submit up to two entries for the “You-Design-the-T-shirt” contest through July 22 at dmtc.com/shirtcontest. A panel of judges will select the top 10 designs and post them on the contest website for fan voting, to be held from July 24 through Aug. 4. The winning image and the designer’s name will be announced Aug. 7. Along with his or her design on the shirt, the top vote-getter will also earn $1,000 and the opportunity for a VIP day at the races.

Food for thought

Besides the design contest, another new event this year is the Grill Fest on Aug. 17, which will showcase the talents of more than 25 seasoned barbecue masters. They will roast seafood, meat, vegetables and desserts, and people can sample five portions for $10.

Also of interest for foodies is the return of the Gourmet Food Truck Festival on Aug. 3, with more than 50 trucks from around Southern California offering fare ranging from salads and spicy Cajun cuisine to desserts. In addition, free chili samples will be distributed in the infield that day as part of the Western Regional Chili Cookoff and Salsa Contest.

Grown-up fun

The Beer Fests are on tap again for 2013, and they will be bigger than ever. The first “fest” — slated for July 27 — will feature brews from more than 40 San Diego companies, including Ballast Point, Green Flash, The Lost Abbey, Monkey Paw and Stone Brewing. The second “fest,” on Aug. 31, will highlight more than 40 IPA beers. People can buy five 7-ounce samples for $17, or full-sized beers.

“These will be the best beer festivals Del Mar has ever held,” Bahr said. “We’ve never had this many really good beers on hand before, and it will be a true beer fan’s delight. All together, we will have more than 100 craft brews available.

“It’s not just for people to come to the races and order beers,” he added. “It attracts beer connoisseurs.”

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