“The best is yet to come.”
The slogan of the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships is particularly meaningful to the Del Mar racetrack this fall, with preparations already under way to host the event in 2017. During the upcoming “Bing Crosby Season” — set for Oct. 29 through Nov. 29 — the seaside oval will give patrons a preview of sorts, as it will simulcast the Breeders’ Cup races live from Keene-land racetrack in Lexington, Ky., during its opening weekend.
In between the championship races — which will be shown on the big video boards and small screens — live racing action will be taking place on the Del Mar dirt and turf surfaces, “so there will be lots of excitement going on,” said Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions.
Among the highlights is a possible showdown in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic between two of Del Mar’s summer residents: Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Pacific Classic heroine Beholder.
Gates will open at the special times of 9 a.m. Oct. 30 and 7:30 a.m. Oct. 31 to allow simulcast wagering that starts with the first race at Keeneland.
Handicappers also can participate in the $800,000 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge, with a $10,000 buy-in. To register, go to Breederscup.com/bcbc.
Meanwhile, the remainder of Del Mar’s five-week meet will build upon the success of fall 2014.
“Last year, we were pleasantly surprised — we didn’t know what to expect,” Bahr said. “We had a fabulous meet. It had more of a locals vibe — it was very exciting, but people still had a bit of elbow room. We will try to roll back just like that again (this season).”
The meet has been expanded from 15 to 20 days, with several graded stakes scheduled. In keeping with the Bing Crosby theme, many of the featured races are named for celebrities of yesteryear, including Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante, Betty Grable, Desi Arnaz, Cary Grant, Cecil B. DeMille, Kathryn Crosby (wife of Bing Crosby) and the famous racehorse Seabiscuit.
Once again, the Hollywood Fashion Contest will take center stage when the track opens Oct. 29. Contestants will vie for $3,000 in prizes in the categories of Best Celebrity Look-alike or Famous Character, Best Dressed Couple or Debonaire Man; and Most Glamorous.
The winner in each category will receive $300; the runner-up will win $200; and third place will net $100. The Bing Crosby Grand Prize — awarded to the overall contest winner — is a two-night stay at L’Auberge Del Mar in a Coastal Room, along with dinner for two at Kitchen 1540 and breakfast for two at Coastline. The package is valued at $1,300.
Sign-ups for the contest will be held between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico, just inside the Stretch Run admission gates. All entrants will receive two free admission passes to be used during the Bing Crosby Season.
The day’s featured race will be the 7-furlong, $200,000 Golden State Juvenile Fillies for 2-year-old California-breds.
The wieners return
On Nov. 8, the fastest wiener dogs in the county will compete in the Wienerschnitzel Wiener San Diego Finals. Sixteen canines will compete in two semifinal races, and face off in a final match. The winner of the competition will advance to the National Finals, held Dec. 30 during the Port of San Diego Holiday Bowl Parade in downtown San Diego.
A ‘full’ holiday weekend on tap
Del Mar will celebrate the four-day Thanksgiving weekend with a number of events, starting at 8 a.m. Nov. 26 with the annual Family Mile Fun Run, which benefits the Helen Woodward Animal Center. Participants — likely to include several jockeys — will “break” from the starting gate and run one lap around the racetrack. After runners cross the finish line, they can pose for photos in the winner’s circle. Helen Woodward will then hold a “Puppy Races Rescue Run” and offer pets for adoption. Event registration for those who pay by Nov. 11 is $20 for ages 16 and older and $10 for ages 4 to 15. The cost includes track admission, a fun run T-shirt, games, arts and crafts, and face painting. Register at delmarfun
To allow people to reach their destinations in time for Thanksgiving dinner, Del Mar will begin its races early, at 11 a.m. Patrons who prefer to dine at the track can enjoy a special three-course brunch with bottomless mimosas or champagne in the Turf Club for $100 per person.
The biggest race day of the meet will be Nov. 28, with three stakes races on the card. The highlight will be the Grade I, $300,000 Hollywood Derby, won by last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, California Chrome, en route to his Horse of the Year championship.
Meanwhile, in the Seaside Concert area, there will be a Craft Beer & Cider Fest with more than 100 local and international brews and a dozen ciders. Five 7-ounce samples will cost $20. Pre-sale admission and beer tasting is available for $22 (regularly $26); tickets can be purchased at www.dmtc.com.
About 30 minutes after the last race on Nov. 28, Sublime with Rome will perform on the Seaside Stage. As with the summer concerts, fall performances are free with racetrack admission, or $20 after the last race, and are restricted to patrons ages 18 and older.
In addition to the Thanksgiving Brunch, Del Mar has several feast options for foodies.
On Sundays, there’s the high-end Bing + Bubbles + Brunch by celebrity Chef Brian Malarkey. For $100, enjoy Turf Club admission and a table for the day, along with an appetizer, entrée, dessert and “bottomless” mimosas or Chandon.
Also returning to Del Mar is the Gourmet Food Truck Festival, set for Nov. 7. About 40 trucks from San Diego, Orange and L.A. counties are expected to be on site, offering eclectic eats.
Hey mon, game on
Nov. 21 will be College Day at Del Mar. Admission is free for students with a valid I.D., and they can partake in activities such as Hippity Hop Derby match races, tailgate games, televised college football action and a best dressed contest.
Meanwhile, reggae music will be played throughout the day, and culminate with performances by Hours Eastly and Iration after the final race of the day, at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays: Free & Football
Free & Easy Fridays have moved to Sundays for this year’s Bing Crosby meet. “Since it will be the weekend, we feel that more people will take advantage of the special promotion,” Bahr explained.
Available for Diamond Club members, the promotion includes free Stretch Run admission, program and a seat, along with half-price domestic drafts, sodas and hot dogs. People can sign up for the free Diamond Club at a booth before entering the Stretch Run admission gates or through the Del Mar Mobile App. Membership also enables patrons to receive 50 percent off entry on other days.
To add further incentive for visiting on a Sunday, Del Mar will again present Paddock Football Lounges, where fans can cheer on their favorite teams in the 17 Hands Pub, Paddock Tavern and Ballast Point Jockey Box, while enjoying food and beverage specials.
This fall, Del Mar’s giveaway item will be a black fleece pullover, with the black-and-gold Bing Crosby Season logo on the front. It’s free with paid admission on Nov. 14.
Continuing with Del Mar tradition, visitors can eat breakfast and drink coffee while observing workouts during Daybreak at Del Mar, held from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturdays. Former jockey Jeff Bloom will answer questions and provide behind-the-scenes info. The event is free, although there is a $10 parking fee. However, patrons who spend $25 or more on breakfast will have the parking fee deducted from their tab.
And those who have a desire to “Sing With Bing” — in which a guest croons “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” before the sixth race each race day — can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Tri”s and tips
For the first time in California, there will be a new 50-cent trifecta, or “Tri,” bet. To collect the winnings, bettors must select the first three finishers in a race in order. The wager can be made on every race on the card.
Also, on weekends, the seaside oval will have a Pick Six with a guaranteed pool of $100,000 (minimum $2 bet) and a Pick Four with a guaranteed pool of $400,000 (minimum 50-cent wager).
Seasoned (or ambitious) horseplayers can participate in the Del Mar Handicapping Challenge on Nov. 14-15. There is a $4,000 buy-in, with $3,000 designated for a personal live bankroll and $1,000 to the prize pool. All of the prize pool will be distributed back to the players; the top five finishers will qualify for the National Handicapping Championship in January in Las Vegas. Contact Bahr at 858-792-4294 or email@example.com.
Those who would rather rely on the experts for advice can attend handicapping seminars at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays in the Seaside Terrace. There are also Newcomers’ Seminars an hour before the first race, which are held each race day in the Plaza de Mexico.