American Pharoah to be among highlights of this year’s Del Mar race season

The eight-week summer meet will feature 43 stakes races. Photo by Kelley Carlson
The eight-week summer meet will feature 43 stakes races. Photo by Kelley Carlson

Last summer, American Pharoah left Del Mar as a first-time race winner. This summer, he returns as a Triple Crown hero.

The champion’s presence at the seaside oval is the center of what promises to be an eventful summer meet, which kicks off July 16 and concludes on Labor Day, Sept. 7.

“We have a full schedule of cool events for everyone, from giveaways of T-shirts and beach bags, to family fun, to popular craft brews and food events, to the concert series lineup,” said Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions.

Triple Crown winner American Pharoah made his debut at Del Mar last summer, and he will be at the track this year. Officials are hoping he will make a public appearance on TVG Pacific Classic Day, Aug. 22. Photo by Kelley Carlson

American Pharoah fans may get a glimpse of the horse in the mornings in the first weeks of the meet, as he trains for the $1 million Haskell Invitational on Aug. 2 at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. It will be the first race for the 3-year-old bay colt since he swept to a 5 1/2-length victory in the June 6 Belmont Stakes, becoming only the 12th Triple Crown winner in American history.

Post-race plans have not yet been announced (other than the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 31), but Bahr said Del Mar hopes to have American Pharoah make a public appearance at the track this season, specifically on TVG Pacific Classic Day, Aug. 22 — whether it’s parading before fans or competing in the $1 million race. The track would also give away a commemorative item.

It’s the first time a Triple Crown winner will be at Del Mar, Bahr noted.

Meanwhile, there will be plenty of other top horses from around the country competing in the 43 stakes races during the 40-day meeting.

“We’re excited to have eight weeks of racing at Del Mar this summer,” said Del Mar President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Harper. “And as usual, our racing office has put together a terrific stakes schedule that holds the promise of some marvelously competitive racing.”

Just over half of the stakes races will be run on the newly renovated track, which has been returned to dirt after seven years with the synthetic Polytrack surface. The rest will be contested on the turf, which was replanted and expanded last year.

The meet’s premier race will once again be the TVG Pacific Classic, for 3-year-olds and up. The 25th edition could potentially draw the top three finishers from this year’s Kentucky Derby: American Pharoah, Firing Line and Dortmund. Last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, California Chrome, is also a possibility, Bahr said, although it has been reported by various media outlets that the reigning Horse of the Year is pointing toward the Grade I Arlington Million at Arlington Park in Illinois on Aug. 15.

Del Mar racetrack 2015 season

• Dates: July 16-Sept. 7

• Location: Via de la Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard

• Post time: 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays; 4 p.m. Fridays; 2 p.m. Labor Day (Sept. 7)

• Admission: $6 Stretch Run ($10 Opening Day); $10 Clubhouse ($20 Opening Day); free for children 17 and younger

• Parking: $10 General, $15 Preferred, $25 Valet ($40 Opening Day)

• Information: 858-755-1141,