Del Mar is gearing up for a fashionable and fabulous Friday opening.
The summer season will kick off on July 15, and it’s the first time in a while that it will be held at the start of a weekend, said Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions. Last year, Opening Day was a Thursday, and for many years, it traditionally fell on a Wednesday.
Moving to a Friday allows for more ample turnaround time from the end of the San Diego County Fair, on July 4.
“We’re excited to see what happens on a Friday,” Bahr said.
More than 40,000 people are expected to attend, and many of them will be showcasing creative and stylish hats in hopes of winning a share of more than $5,000 in prizes.
To participate in the Hats Contest, attendees can sign up between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico, just inside the Stretch Run admission gates. They can enter in the categories of Most Glamorous, Best Racing Theme, Funniest/Most Outrageous, Best Fascinator and Flowers/All Other. The winners of each category will receive $300, along with a Studio Savvy gift basket valued at $250. Second place will net $200, and third place will get $100. The grand prize winner will be rewarded with a one-night stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar and a meal for two at Addison Restaurant, valued at more than $1,000. Meanwhile, all participants will receive two free admission passes to return to the races.
Those who are looking for “The Party” can head to the Seaside Cabana, and this year, it has been expanded with new partners and activities, Bahr said. For $30 — which includes Stretch Run admission and special access to the event — revelers can enjoy perks such as a dance floor and games tent, gourmet food trucks, a beer garden, prize giveaways, jumbo video boards, and the Red Bull Tour Bus with some of the top DJs in the industry.
Other traditional events will be back, as well. The Morgan Lee Band, a country act, will perform the national anthem, and a person or group will “Sing With Bing” before the sixth race. Kids who attend Camp Del Mar — which provides activities for 5- to 12-year-olds all day, for $24 per child — will bounce down the homestretch on inflatable balls in the Hippity Hop Derby, after the fourth race.
Making its debut this year is the Horseshoe Pitch, which will be held on the track near the winners circle. Randomly selected fans will toss oversized horseshoes at a stake, and have an opportunity to win prizes such as restaurant gift certificates. The pitch will be a regular occurrence at the seaside oval during the season.
Once more, the feature race on the day’s card will be the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf. It’s often used as a prep for the track’s sophomore championship, the Grade II, $250,000 Del Mar Derby, which is set for Sept. 4.
First post on Opening Day is 2 p.m.; admission is $10 for Stretch Run and $20 for Clubhouse.