Good bets on Opening Day: Foods for a gambling edge at the track

By Catharine L. Kaufman


Here’s a primer on racetrack eats to give you an edge as you approach the betting window — especially on opening day, July 20.

Foods for Focus

You need to filter out distractions, like thoroughbreds with their blinders. Be alert and stay focused, keeping brain cells on their toes. Eating whole grains and fruits like avocados can amp up blood flow, offering an easy, breezy way to fire-up gray matter. At the starting gate, try an appetizer of guacamole and housemade salsa roja with tri-color tortilla chips.

For a classic dose of brain food, beef up on omega-3s best in wild-caught, deep-sea fish and seafood like salmon, whitefish, scallops, crab and spiny lobster. Chef Barry Schneider of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Race Track has plenty of foods for focus on the opening day menu, with a motherload of locally grown and seasonal fare. Do Del Mar’s classic jumbo shrimp cocktail or grilled wild king salmon with pineapple jasmine rice, baby bok choy, mango salsa, and Thai green curry sauce.

While caffeine will give you a buzz and help you concentrate on your picks, too much of a good thing might give you the jitters. Instead of guzzling coffee, need I twist your arm with divine bittersweet chocolate? This palatal bliss has powerful antioxidants, and contains natural caffeine stimulants to enhance concentration.

The menu offers a “chocolate bar” for your just desserts — a mousse “candy bar” on a chocolate cookie crust with a raspberry coulis, and seasonal berries, a dose of fructose, which will also sharpen your faculties.

No Horsing Around

Like the nags, you want to eat foods that’ll make you eager and energetic, not logy or lethargic. Start opening day with a power breakfast of an iron-packed spinach omelet (egg whites for cholesterol-conscious), a slice of whole-wheat toast, and honeydew melon for energy-boosting complex carbs, fiber and minerals. For sustained energy throughout the day, the Mayo Clinic recommends snacks including bananas, apples, figs, papayas, almonds, dried apricots, sunflower seeds and whole-grain crackers. Grilled fatty fishes, kidney beans, lentils, edamane, and high-powered grains will also do the trick. Try the assorted cheese plate with grapes, strawberries, figs and crackers, the fresh Washington State Dungeness crabmeat salad, or nibble on crunchy tempura green beans with a cucumber wasabi dip.

Also check out the new third floor Gastro Celebrity Pub. Chef Barry boasts, almost every item is under $15, and is great for splitting like the garlic edamame, duck confit salad and surf and turf sliders with natural Brandt beef.

A Trojan Horse

Foods that zap you of energy or are soporific and make you want to take a catnap, should be avoided. Above all, don’t eat like a horse — big meals tend to make you drowsy. Grazing throughout the day helps maintain steady energy levels. Other no-nos include the evil twin

Sisters: White Sugar and White Flour. Eating quantities of refined sugar and simple carbs will boost you up, then make you crash. So do brown instead of white rice, whole-wheat instead of white bread, and hearty grains like quinoa and buckwheat. High fatty foods make your blood do a beeline to your gut to help digestion, so choose lean protein like chicken or fish, instead of fried and processed foods. A perfect choice is the grilled bistro chicken breast with cranberry quinoa pilaf.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water

Keep well-hydrated to ward off headaches and dizziness. Drink alcohol in moderation as too much will impair your judgment. Survey the line-up of delicious drinks, and select your favorite, remembering mixed drinks tend to spike blood-alcohol levels higher than other libations. On the bar menu are assorted cocktails, like the low-cal SkinnyRita, the classic Del Margarita, the Red Bull-Fecta, the Bloody Del Mar and the Del Martini.

Southwest Seafood Cocktail

One of Bing’s faves was a killer seafood cocktail that’ll surely put you in the Winner’s Circle.


1-pound large shrimp, peeled, cooked

1/2-pound jumbo scallops, cooked, halved

1/2-cup white wine

1/4-cup fresh limejuice

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon crushed arbol chiles

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

1 small red onion, diced

2-cups ripe tomatoes, diced

1-cup avocado, diced

2 Persian cucumbers, diced

Method: In a large bowl, marinate the seafood in juice, wine, garlic, chiles, cilantro and onion for one hour. Blend in tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, and chill for another hour. Serve in martini glasses with corn chips and plenty of ice water.