Del Mar racing season kicks off

Del Mar racing season kicks off

Del Mar racetrack began its season on Friday, with 10 races, an annual hat contest, and the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes. The 39-day meet will end Sept. 5, but not before the Aug. 20 Pacific Classic. 

Del Mar will feature some of the best horses in modern racing, including Beholder and California Chrome. Chrome will run on July 23rd, while Beholder hits the turf a week later. The Pacific Classic will be one of Chrome’s final races, according to trainer Art Sherman.

“I’d love to see him race one more year, but he’s got a lot of new stockholders and they have a lot of mares,” Sherman told the Los Angeles Daily News on Thursday. “They want to breed him really bad.”

Del Mar’s last Friday opening in 1970 drew about 12,000 visitors, but officials have been preparing for more than 40,000 this year. They’re counting on a host of non-racing activities, including an extensive summer concert series, to draw in new fans.

Courting a younger crowd has been a top priority for many racetracks. Santa Anita Park initiated a set of renovations earlier this year to do just that, adopting a turf similar to Del Mar’s well-received green.

“It’s an intricate game,” said Mike Willman, Director of Publicity at Santa Anita Park. “For a lot of people it’s an acquired taste.” But while Santa Anita has focused on a “younger, more hip crowd”, according to Willman, Del Mar has hedged their bets on free family events hosted at the infield.

Del Mar will have to compete with local sporting events throughout its summer meet, with the Pacific Classic being scheduled for the same day as a San Diego Padres home game. Only 20,424 turned out for Del Mar’s top race last year, a historic low.

By Hugo Guzman

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