Opening Day at Del Mar Racetrack 2016

Del Mar Racetrack jockeys (Photo by Rachel Ganz)Written by Rachel Ganz. All photos by Rachel Ganz.

On Friday, July 15th, 42,562 people crowded together to see and be seen at the Opening Day at Del Mar Racetrack. It’s a big crazy party where all the beautiful (and want-to-be-beautiful people) from all over the United States come to bet on thoroughbred horses, drink champagne, and mingle with friends both old and new. Most women keep up the tradition of wearing big floppy hats, chic sundresses and high heels. There is an abundance of creativity among the woman who create and wear stunning or unusual hats to try and win one of the coveted prizes in the Del Mar Racetrack Opening Day Hat Contest.

This was the 77th season since co-founder Bing Crosby and some of his friends, Jimmy Durante, Jack Dempsey, Al Jolson, and Lucille Ball opened the Del Mar Racetrack on July 3, 1937. Bing Crosby and his Hollywood buddies had a dream to create a magnificent horse palace and racetrack by the ocean where anyone could party and play all night long.

Before the first race, crowds were swarming around the paddock area, trying to get a good view of the ten horses set to run in the one-mile opener. Eventually the winning horse, “Accelerant,” ridden by jockey Santiago Gonzalez, claimed the $23,000 purse. Although most of the clientele on Opening Day do not know or care much about which horse might actually win a race! It is all about making the scene and having a great time. By the time the 10th race was over, almost all of the people were ”drunk as a skunk” and making their way down to the racetrack entrance to attend post Opening Day parties in Del Mar.

If you are coming from Los Angeles, the easiest way to get to the Del Mar Racetrack is to take the lovely Amtrack train from Union Station to the Solana Station in San Diego. My advice is to book a hotel for that night so you can attend some of the great post parties of Opening Day. Also, make sure to reserve a cab ahead of time to pick you up at the Solana train station so you can drop your luggage at the hotel before you head to the racetrack. Get there by 12 noon if you can, because the crowds can be overwhelming. Post time for Opening Day is 2 pm.

You can purchase tickets online. Prices range from $10-25 on Opening Day. Racing for the season takes place Wednesdays through Saturdays, with the addition of Labor Day, Monday September 5th.  The exclusive ‘Turf Club” is  the VIP section, but you have to purchase a yearly membership or be close friends with someone who is already a member who can take you as a guest. The last resort is to buy tickets from scalpers on Craigslist who sell “Turf Club” tickets for $300-350 each.  In my opinion, you don’t need a Turf Club ticket to enjoy the amazing Opening Day, or any race day, at Del Mar Racetrack.


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