2017 racing season kicks off July 19 with Opening Day events


Del Mar’s summer Opening Day celebration is more than just a day-long affair.

Preparations begin well ahead of time, as women and men shop for the perfect outfit and headgear to don at this premier event on the San Diego social scene schedule.

But by July 19, everyone will be ready to strut their stuff, as the gates open to welcome patrons for the racing season. More than 40,000 people are expected to attend. Valenti International is the title sponsor of Opening Day at Del Mar.

“It’s the place to come and be seen … People love to dress up, and the ladies bring their hats,” noted Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions. “It’s just a fun experience all around – one big party.”

The Opening Day Hats Contest garners the most attention, as participants compete for more than $5,000 in prizes.

People vie for awards in the following categories: Most Glamorous, Best Racing Theme, Most Outrageous, Best Fascinator and Flowers/All Other. First place in each category will win $300 plus a Studio Savvy Gift Basket valued at $250; second place will net $200; and third place will get $100. The grand prize winner will receive a one-night stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar and dinner for two at Addison Restaurant, featuring Chef William Bradley’s multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Total value of the grand prize package is $1,000.

All contest participants will receive two free admission passes to return to the races during the season. People can enter between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico, inside the Stretch Run admission gates; there is no cost.

Meanwhile, “The Party” will be under way in the Seaside Cabana. For $35, patrons will receive Stretch Run admission and access to the party, which will include the Red Bull Tour Bus with DJs; a dance floor and games tent; photo booths; prize giveaways; interactive activities; jumbo video boards for race viewing; private wagering; and barbecue, craft brews and cocktails for purchase.

Post time for the first race is 2 p.m., and the highlight of the card will be the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes, a one-mile turf event for 3-year-old thoroughbreds.

The festivities won’t stop with the end of the races – there’s the Official Opening Day After-Party: Hats, Heels & Hooves at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, 5951 Linea Del Cielo in Rancho Santa Fe. From 5 p.m. to midnight, guests can mingle with jockeys and others people in the horse racing industry on the pool terrace and Azalea lawn. Entertainment will be provided by DJ Ricci Rich.

The $150 general admission price includes a welcome cocktail and an elaborate culinary display prepared by celebrity chef Casey Thompson.

Private VIP spaces are also available, which include a welcome cocktail, a designated server, two bottles of Moët & Chandon and a bottle of Tito’s Vodka for the table, a VIP gift bag for each guest, and a dinner buffet exclusive to the section. For more information about VIP reservations, contact Morgan Howitt at (858) 381-8207 or

A portion of the after-party proceeds will benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. For more information, go to or