With new and returning favorite events, Del Mar primed for a ‘fantastic’ racing season

Del Mar is on top of the world.

Not only is the seaside oval the site of this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, it will serve as the home of Arrogate, currently the No. 1-ranked racehorse in the universe.

The big, gray 4-year-old colt is scheduled to make his next start in the $300,000 TVG San Diego Handicap on July 22, his first since his victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March. If all goes well, Arrogate will likely target the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 19, and then defend his title in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4.

“We’re very pleased that the Arrogate connections have decided to stay home and give California’s thoroughbred fans a chance to watch the best horse in racing right now perform,” said Tom Robbins, Del Mar’s executive vice president for racing. “We’ll be delighted to showcase him at Del Mar, and his presence will add some marvelous spice to our overall racing program.”

To commemorate the return of Arrogate, posters of the champion will be distributed to fans on July 22, while supplies last.

Arrogate’s expected appearance in the TVG San Diego Handicap is the first Saturday of Del Mar’s summer meet, which spans seven weeks. The season - which will run July 19 through Sept. 4 - is action-packed with returning events, along with a few new ones.

Among the special occasions will be “Chargers Day at Del Mar” on July 22, the same day as Arrogate’s anticipated comeback.

“This is a chance for many of the Chargers players to say thank you to the people of San Diego who rooted for them through thick and thin during more than half a century here in town,” former Chargers player/coach/broadcaster Hank Bauer said. “We’ll be tipping our caps to our loyal fans and letting them know how much we appreciated that loyalty and their support and encouragement over all those years.”

Groups of Chargers – organized by decade – will assemble in the winner’s circle after each race to honor the victors, and then head to the Plaza de Mexico for a photo and autograph session with fans. Video clips from the team’s 56 years in San Diego will also be shown.

Another themed day will be “Country Fest,” slated for Aug. 5.

“Wear your hats, stylish boots and big belt buckles,” said Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions. “It will be a full day of country leading up to (the) Billy Currington (concert).”

According to Bahr, there will be live music, a mechanical bull and trick roping demonstrations. The annual Western Regional Chili Cookoff will kick off at 1 p.m. in the Seaside Concert Area, to the west of the grandstand, where attendees will be treated to free samples and can vote for their favorites. The day will culminate with the performance by Currington, after the races.

Yet another new event this year will be Burgers & Brews on Aug. 12. Tickets – which start at $34 – include admission to the track, the evening concert by Ludacris, 10 beer tastings, unlimited samples of patties and a “fry bar.” They can be purchased ahead of the date at burgersandbrews.com.

‘Up close and personal’

For the first time, Del Mar will offer a Premium View VIP area during its Summer Concert Series. A limited number of tickets are available for a space next to the stage, which also features a private bar and restrooms.

“It’s a nice area to witness a concert – up close and personal,” Bahr touted.

The majority of the performances – which range from reggae to rock – will be held on “Four O’Clock Fridays.” On those days, attendees can receive half off of signature cocktails during “happy hour,” from the time gates open until 6 p.m.

Several of the concerts will be held on weekends.

Performances are free with track admission before the start of the final race, or $20 afterward, and are for ages 18 and older.

For VIP tickets, go to delmarracing.com/premiumview.

Fan favorites

Several food-centric events will return to Del Mar this summer, including the Gourmet Food Truck Festival on July 29; BBQ State Championship, Aug. 20; Pizza & Beer Festival, Aug. 26; and Tacotopia, Sept. 3.

Every Sunday, patrons can dine on delectables from celebrity chef Brian Malarkey at Taste of the Turf Club. The $150 cost per person includes Turf Club seating and admission, along with an appetizer, entree, dessert and bottomless mimosas or bloody Marys.

More casual fare is offered during Daybreak at Del Mar, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. weekends. Early risers can eat breakfast in the Clubhouse Terrace Restaurant, watch morning workouts, and gain behind-the-scenes insight from racehorse owner and former jockey Jeff Bloom.

Donut Days are also back, slated from 8 to 10 a.m. July 29 and Aug. 12 in the Seaside Terrace. People of all ages can enjoy free doughnuts, orange juice and coffee, while admiring horses on the track, observing question-and-answer sessions with jockeys and trainers, and enjoying family-friendly activities. Jockey Chantal Sutherland is among the confirmed guests on July 29.

Family Weekends are on the agenda again, as well, with pony rides, inflatable rides, face painters and more in the infield. The “supersized” version, on Aug. 6, will also include bungee trampolines, rock climbing walls, Jockey Photo Day and the Webkinz plush horse giveaway for kids 12 and younger.

Plushies aren’t the only items that will be given away during the summer meet. Besides the Webkinz toys and Arrogate posters, the track will distribute towels emblazoned with the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships logo on TVG Pacific Classic Day.

Going home a winner

First-time visitors may want to attend one of the daily Newcomers’ Seminars, an hour before the first race, to get free handicapping selections and tips. There are also Weekend Handicapping Seminars, from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m.

Advanced horseplayers have the opportunity to participate in the 14th annual Handicapping Challenge on July 29-30, with a prize pool of $300,000 based on an expected 140 entrants. Contact Bahr at chris@dmtc.com.

Horse lovers can try their luck another way, too – they can buy “race ready” thoroughbreds at the sixth annual Paddock Sale, which will begin after the last race on July 26. There will be a training preview of the equines being offered after the regular morning workouts on July 24. First-time prospective buyers are encouraged to attend a New Owner Seminar; call (626) 574-6620 or go to www.toconline.com.

‘A fantastic season’

With all the activities, it should be another memorable meet at the oval.

“We have about 30 events in 36 days,” Bahr noted. “With two scheduled appearances by the No. 1 horse in the world, Arrogate, Del Mar is primed for a fantastic season.”

Del Mar racetrack 2017 season:

• Dates: July 19-Sept. 4

• Location: Via de la Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard

• Post time: 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays; 4 p.m. Fridays (special first posts at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 25 and Sept. 1); 2 p.m. Labor Day (Sept. 4)

• Admission: $6 Stretch Run ($15 Opening Day); $10 Clubhouse ($30 Opening Day); free for children 17 and younger

• Parking: $10 General, $15 Preferred, $25 Valet ($40 Opening Day)

• Information: (858) 755-1141, www.dmtc.com

Concert lineup

Fri., July 21-Tribal Seeds

Fri., July 28-Violent Femmes

Fri., Aug. 4-Eagles of Death Metal

Sat., Aug. 5-Billy Currington

Fri., Aug. 11-The White Buffalo

Sat., Aug. 12-Ludacris

Fri., Aug.18-Steel Pulse

Fri., Aug. 25-Lord Huron

Sat., Aug. 26-Slightly Stoopid

Fri., Sept. 1-The Revivalists

Sun., Sept. 3-Steve Aoki

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