Del Mar racing season ready to run with variety of engaging events

Game On Dude, winner of the 2013 Grade I TVG Pacific Classic, may be back to defend his title this year. Photo by Kelley Carlson
Game On Dude, winner of the 2013 Grade I TVG Pacific Classic, may be back to defend his title this year. Photo by Kelley Carlson

By Kelley Carlson

There’s twice as much to look forward to at the Del Mar racetrack this year.

For the first time, the seaside oval will host summer and fall meets.

“Our fall meet is drawing a lot of buzz and looking very exciting,” said Joe Harper, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s president and chief executive officer. “But first we’ve got a classic summer season full of big purses, good horses, and more Del Mar fun than you can shake a stick at.”

The season kicks off on July 17 — a Thursday, which is not the traditional Wednesday opening day.

Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions, explained that this is because of the San Diego County Fair running later than usual this year: Turnaround time is needed to accommodate the large Opening Day crowds and allow horses to acclimate.

Yet as much action as ever is planned during the 36-day summer meet, which runs through Sept. 3. Forty-three stakes races are scheduled, with some on the newly expanded turf course. The main event will once again be the $1 million Grade I TVG Pacific Classic, slated for Aug. 24. Among the possible entrants are the 2013 winner, Game On Dude; last year’s 2-year-old champion, the undefeated Shared Belief; and top stakes runners Imperative, Clubhouse Ride, Medal Count, Dance With Fate and Toast of New York.

Entertainment

Once again, Del Mar has assembled quite a concert lineup for its Four O’Clock Fridays and the occasional Saturday performances. First-timers include the Counting Crows and Electronic Dance Music (EDM) DJ Steve Aoki, along with returning favorites such as Weezer and Ziggy Marley. Concerts are free with racetrack admission, or $20 after the last race.

Microbrews and gourmet foods

Nearly every weekend will feature some kind of event related to food or drink. The fun starts with the San Diego Beer Fest on July 26, where patrons can sample from more than 100 local craft brews. A week later — on Aug. 2 — will be the Western Regional Chili Cook-off, where people can get free tastings and vote for their favorite cook to advance to the 2014 world championships. The Del Mar Grill Fest follows on Aug. 9, highlighting cuisine from more than 25 barbecue professionals. Next will be the Gourmet Food Truck Festival on Aug. 16, which will boast fare from about 50 trucks, ranging from gluten-free crab cakes to unusual grilled cheese sandwiches. Finally, there’s the International Beer Fest on Aug. 24, with a lineup that includes Irish reds, German pilsners and Belgian wheats.

Family fun

Every weekend, parents and their children can head to the infield for free fun. Among the activities: pony rides, a giant scramble slide and obstacle course, magic shows, a caricature artist, face painters and a visit by the track mascot, “Pony Boy.”

A “super-sized” Family Fun Day is set for July 20, where guests can meet jockeys and an ex-racehorse, enjoy baseball clinics with the Lake Elsinore Storm, and take part in a Webkinz plushie giveaway for kids 12 and younger.

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