Enjoying the Sights and Sounds at Del Mar
Experiencing a day at the races at Del Mar is simply delightful. And this past weekend I was able to not only enjoy the sights, sounds and experience of Del Mar racetrack, but meet some new people through my contacts and media affiliation. Del Mar offers numerous events and entertainment options, and along with world class racing, a day at Del Mar is a most enjoyable entertainment experience.
Day Break at Del Mar
I was at the track early Saturday for Day Break at Del Mar to enjoy the morning workouts while dining in the Clubhouse Terrace open air restaurant. The horses work in both directions on the track, and former jockey Jeff Bloom is the event announcer who I talked to at the conclusion of the 2 hour session. During the workouts, Jeff informs the fans in attendance of which horses and jockeys are running, why some work faster than others and trainers tendencies among other track and racing insight. While it was cloudy and overcast for the first 90 minutes, the sun broke through after 9am, which would set the tone for another sunny and super day of racing in Southern California.
Turf Club and Press Pass
I spent part of my afternoon in the press area on the 6th floor at Del Mar, and I ran into a few familiar faces and met some new people during the day including Mark Bullock, credentials manager at Del Mar and Dan Smith, senior media coordinator who’s been around the track for 54 years. Both were very welcoming and gracious. Saturday was also a celebration of sorts as Chargers players met Chargers fans, with dozens of former San Diego Chargers football players meeting and greeting fans. Seeing the sea side oval from the upper levels and grandstand provides some sensational views not only of the track, but into the hills and the adjacent Pacific Ocean.
Handicapping the Races
While familiar with racing and handicapping, I still sat in on a pair of handicapping seminars to experience what Del Mar provides for the fans and patrons visiting the track. The Eastside Terrace is trackside, and trainer Vann Belvoir, a former jockey, provided some insight on contending horses in each race. Outside at a covered area near the paddock, Frank Scatori, the former editor of “The HorsePlayer Magazine”, is the daily host of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s Newcomers Seminar. Frank engages the fans and covers everything from various types of bets and terminology to How to Pick Competitive Horses, What to Watch for in the Paddock, and Following the Money on the tote board.
In the Paddock and the Races
Fans flock to see the horses and jockey’s up close in the paddock, and this was especially true for the 78th running of the San Diego Handicap. I
was able to observe from the infield of the paddock and get up close to the world’s best race horse, Arrogate and his trainer Bob Baffert. Celebrities also make it inside the ropes in the paddock, as a former ‘10’ Bo Derek was also alongside me getting a close-up view of her beau, Arrogate. Fans surround the paddock area and others take in the sights and sounds from the Paddock View Patio, complete with umbrella tables, on level 2 of the Stretch Run overlooking the paddock.
While the huge 1-20 favorite Arrogate finished a disappointing 4th place in the field of 5, there was still some positives in the outcome. The $119.80 place price and $67.40 show payoff on Donworth were both Del Mar pari-mutuel records. Accelerate was very impressive in winning the 1 1/16 mile race, going gate to wire to win by more than 8 lengths. Arrogate’s seven-race win streak was snapped, and jockey Mike Smith wrapped him up down the stretch when he realized there would be no late kick or rally. I was holding a $5 win and place ticket on third-place finisher Cat Burglar, who paid more than $38 to show. Oh well!
Still, watching the races track side and also high above while observing and listening to the fans reactions throughout the day at Del Mar was fun and enjoyable. That was especially true in the San Diego Handicap when the horses made their way around the far turn of the race. The crescendo started to build in anticipation of an Arrogate late run and rally down the stretch. But it never materialized. The shock for many was seen as the huge favorite let many fans down. But the experience of a day at Del Mar is truly a favorite, even if your horse doesn’t finish first.