Racing season’s Opening Day promises to be better than ever


By Kelley Carlson

If there’s one sure bet this racing season, it’s that Del Mar’s Opening Day on July 17 will be filled with plenty of parties, haute headgear and handsome horses.

Last year’s event brought a record crowd of 47,339, and attendance has increased for eight consecutive years.

“We’d like to break another record,” with hopes for about 48,000 people, said Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions.

“(Opening Day) keeps getting bigger and bigger,” and not just in terms of the number of people, he added.

For instance, Bahr noted that this year’s Coors Light Opening Day Party in the Seaside Concert area will be expanded. There will be live music from San Diego band Vokab Kompany, and DJs will spin tunes from the Red Bull Tour Bus Deck. In addition, there will be gourmet food trucks and a microbrew beer garden, and shaded seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Naturally, there will be opportunities to watch and wager on the races, and chances to win prizes and gift bags. Admission to the party is $30 per person.

Another event that is sure to garner a lot of attention is the 19th annual “One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest,” which typically draws an array of entries that range from fine and frilly to downright silly. This year’s categories are Most Glamorous; Best Racing Theme; Funniest/Most Outrageous; Best Flowers/All Others; and Best Fascinator.

Because the fascinator category was so well-received last year, it has been expanded to include second- and third-place prizes this season.

“Each year, more women and men wear hats to make a fashion statement — and not just on Opening Day,” said Julie Sarno in a news release, who has been involved with the contest since its beginning and again will serve as its coordinator. “The Opening Day hats are the most fun and over the top, but any day of the race meet, one sees men wearing fedoras and women wearing fascinators and hats to complete their outfits.”

She noted in an interview that hot pink again seems to be a hot color trend, along with black and white.

Those who desire to enter the contest can sign up in the Plaza de Mexico between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m.

In all categories, first place will win $300, while second place will receive $200 and third place will get $100.

The Bing Crosby Grand Prize winner will receive two round-trip American Airlines flight vouchers good for any location in the contiguous United States, along with a $500 gift basket from Studio Savvy.

Other activities planned for Opening Day include the Hippity-Hop Derby, in which Camp Del Mar participants bounce on large balls in a race down the stretch; and a special guest’s rendition of “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” as part of Sing With Bing.

Also, the track is expecting a lot of celebrities, including a number of sports personalities, Bahr said. Some of them will be in the winner’s circle for trophy presentations after the races.

The day’s featured race will be the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds, run at 1 mile on the turf. It’s a key prep for the $300,000 Grade II Del Mar Derby, set for Sept. 1.