Jul. 18th, 2014

Glamorous Hats, Winning Jockeys & Elite Parties Kick Off Del Mar Racetrack's Opening Day


As jockeys moved their horses to the starting gate yesterday, excited patrons clutched their racing form in one hand and beers in the other, in eager anticipation of the first race to kick off the 75th annual Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Racing season. Opening Day saw 42,020 people in attendance and the fashionable affair drew in some of the most outrageous, oversized and playful hats to one of San Diego’s most beloved events.

Photo Courtesy of Del Mar Racing

The rich and the beautiful came out to play for a day of drinking, eating and betting dressed to the nines in cocktail attire, seersucker suits and designer sunglasses. Among the notable attendees were Mayor of San Diego, Bobby Flay, Lucie Arnaz, Jamal Franklin, Tom Lehman (PGA Golfer), Jayson Blair (actor), and Warren Moon (former NFL quarterback). Considered one of the most beautiful tracks in the country, this year came with some changes including a replaced and widened turf course in a $5 million project while the synthetic polytrack was also upgraded.

Photo Courtesy of Del Mar Racing

While the racetrack attracts all ages of visitors looking to go home with a fuller pocket, it was clear that many attend purely for the glitz and glamour of the event. This was no better showcased than during the 20th annual Opening Day Hats Contest. Some of the more clever ensembles included motorized pieces such as twirling flowers, waving cats and horses racing around a track. Among the winners were El Cajon’s Natalie Spaans winning first for "Most Glamorous" and Belinda Berry from Walnut Creek, CA who won in the "Funniest/Most Outrageous" category as well as securing the ultimate win: The Bing Crosby Grand Prize.

Photo Courtesy of Del Mar Racing
Photo Courtesy of Del Mar Racing

Claiming the first win of the day, Jockey Tiago Pereira and his horse Hawk’s Eyes beat out Fit to Rule, as Mr. Candy Bar galloped into third. Locals and visitors filled the stands while up in the private Turf Club, patrons enjoyed meals on white-table-clothed reserved tables overlooking the track. Around every corner, a cocktail was being enjoyed, large hats interfered with personal space and high rollers discussed handicaps while hobnobbing with the sport’s most prosperous veteran bettors.

Photo Credit: Nicolle Monico

Viewing the track from Il Palio restaurant, the track’s slogan, “Where the Turf Meets the Surf,” (uttered by former owner Bing Crosby) is fully realized. This year, presenting the flowers to owners of the winning horse was Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. And the total handle for the day reached a whopping $14.8 million.

Photo Credit: Nicolle Monico

Once the races ended, attendees enlisted the help of car services to take them from the tracks to various after-parties around the city. One of the most esteemed celebrations was at L’Auberge Del Mar, a 21+ event which included music by DJ FishFonics and DJ Gabe Vega on the pool deck and complimentary bites from Chef Fortune. Tickets for the evening were priced at $200 and three-levels of entertainment were surrounded by cabanas with bottle service and various bars throughout the venue.

For the first time ever, the five-star resort turned their restaurant Kitchen1540 into a veritable nightclub with celebrity disc jockey DJ Naka G on the patio, complimentary Moët & Chandon Champagne and exquisite passed-tray eats. But the exclusive event came in at $500 a head with room for only 200 guests, making sure that only the best-of-the-best were granted access to the avant-garde club. Hued in red lights, the interior areas offered cushioned seating and belly bar tables, while outside an LED screen projected vibrant images and a trumpet player played along to the DJ's beats. As a whole, the space projected an elite vibe that oozed privilege, without being stuffy.

Photo Courtesy of Del Mar Racing

The race season ends on September 3 and a 15-date mini-season will be held again in November. Scheduled Wednesday through Sunday, the first-race post times are at 2 p.m. most days and 4 p.m. on Fridays. Among the admission options, tickets start at $10 for the clubhouse, $5 for the clubhouse reserved seating, and $60 on Wednesdays and Thursdays at either the Trackside Outdoor or Il Palio indoor dining tables located on the sixth floor.

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