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.”
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.
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.”
And once again, there will be concerts on the Seaside Stage at the west end of the grandstand. A dozen performances are lined up — including two special Latin shows — to be held on Fridays and the occasional Saturday and Sunday throughout the season. Admission is free with paid racetrack admission, but it’s $20 for guests who arrive after the final race of the day.
Del Mar isn’t just for grown-ups — Family Weekends are back. Among the free offerings for children on Saturdays and Sundays are games and an inflatable obstacle course, pony rides, magic shows, stilt walkers, face painters, a caricature artist and an opportunity to meet the Del Mar mascot, “Pony Boy.” And July 21 will be a “super-sized” Family Day with four times the regular activities, a Webkinz plush horse giveaway and Jockey Photo Day.
Other returning favorites that are fun for all ages include Donuts at Del Mar, where fans can enjoy free doughnuts, orange juice and coffee while watching workouts and listening to question-and-answer sessions with jockeys and track announcer Trevor Denman, from 8 to 10 a.m. July 20 and Aug. 24; and the Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals-San Diego Finals on Sept. 1, featuring the fastest dachshunds in the county.
Ready to run
Racing fans can catch workouts on other mornings besides Donuts at Del Mar. From 7 to 9:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, during Daybreak at Del Mar, they can observe the thoroughbreds exercising while eating an a la carte breakfast and listening to industry tips from Jeff Bloom, a former jockey who is now an owner and stable manager.
Serious horse fans who want to become more involved in the sport are welcome to participate in the Paddock Sale after the races on July 21. Barretts Equine Limited will conduct the auction, and is expected to offer about 40 thoroughbreds of all ages that are “race-ready.” The equines will be from out of state and eligible to run in Del Mar’s “Ship and Win” program, which pays a $1,000 starter bonus, plus an additional 33 1/3 percent payment on top of purse monies earned in their initial start.
Two of the 25 horses sold last year — Nechez Dawn and I Dazzle — went on to become stakes winners in California. Nechez Dawn won the Daisycutter Handicap at Del Mar within weeks of her purchase, and I Dazzle was victorious in the American Beauty Stakes at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia in April.
A new owners seminar is planned from 9 to 11 a.m. July 21 in the track’s Veranda Café overlooking the paddock; reservations can be made at (626) 574-6620 or
- Prospective buyers are also encouraged to research ownership through The Jockey Club’s website at
“We know of at least three brand-new owners who bought in for the first time at last year’s sale,” Barretts General Manager Kim Lloyd said in a news release. “We think others might have come on board, too. New owners are the real key for us with this sale. If we can develop new owners, we’ll have a real impact over the years.”
Additional events this season include the Miss Cougar Del Mar contest on July 26, giveaways (a full-size cooler on Aug. 10 and a free cap for Diamond Club members on Labor Day, Sept. 2), and Closing Day (Sept. 4) festivities. People who are looking for helpful hints and tips on betting may attend the free Newcomers’ Seminars and Weekend Handicapping Seminars.
Tips for saving money
Those who want to experience Del Mar on a budget can take advantage of “Free & Easy Wednesdays.” It’s exclusively for Diamond Club members, who will receive free admission, a free seat in the Stretch Run area, a free program, 50 percent off hot dogs, and a 50 percent discount on 16-ounce domestic draft beers and/or soft drinks every Wednesday except Opening Day. Those who aren’t club members can sign up for the free membership outside the Stretch Run gates, and can fill out forms in advance at
Diamond Club members can use their cards for 50 percent off on admission on other days, as well.
On Thursdays, special discounts are available for seniors age 62 and older.
Finally, to avoid heavy traffic and parking fees, racegoers have the option of buying an $11 “Pony Express” ticket. It provides round-trip fare on the Coaster, Sprinter and Breeze; Stretch Run admission; and a free shuttle between the Solana Beach North County Transit District station and the racetrack. “Pony Express” tickets are available at all NCTD stations; select the “Current Promotions” button on a ticket vending machine. They can also be bought at GoNCTD.com/Races2013. “Pony Express” riders then pick up their admission tickets at the racetrack’s Diamond Club booth near the Stretch Run gate.
Del Mar racetrack 2013 season
• Dates: July 17-Sept. 4
• Location: Via de la Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard
• Post time: 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays; 4 p.m. Fridays; 1 p.m. Pacific Classic Day (Aug. 25), 2 p.m. Labor Day (Sept. 2)
• Admission: $6 Stretch Run ($10 Opening Day); $10 Clubhouse ($20 Opening Day)
• Parking: $10
• Information: (858) 755-1141, (858) 793-5533;
Del Mar concert schedule
• July 19: The B-52s
• July 26: Fitz and the Tantrums
• July 27: Sammy Hagar & The Wahoos
• July 28: Los Tucanes de Tijuana
• Aug. 2: Iration
• Aug. 4: Larry Hernandez
• Aug. 9: Pinback
• Aug. 16: Steel Pulse
• Aug. 17: Weezer
• Aug. 23: Special guest
• Aug. 30: Special guest
• Aug. 31: Reggae Fest featuring Ziggy Marley