Favorite and new events highlight Del Mar 2018 racing season

Horses race toward the finish line on the Jimmy Durante Turf Course.
(Kelley Carlson )

Del Mar is expected to be “as cool as ever” this summer, with a few new events and promotions to spice up the season.

The 36-day meet at the seaside oval will commence July 18 and continue through Labor Day, Sept. 3, featuring 41 stakes races worth $7.3 million and plenty of activities for people of all ages.

One of the biggest changes is to the “Free & Easy Wednesdays,” which has been revamped as “Brigantine Wednesdays.” Starting July 25, Diamond Club members will receive free Stretch Run admission, a free program and a free seat, and can take advantage of The Brigantine’s $3 fish tacos and $4 pints of Coors Light in the Plaza de Mexico.

“We’re adding more surf to the turf,” noted Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions.

Racegoers who are not Diamond Club members can sign up for free membership through the Del Mar mobile app or outside the Stretch Run admission gates.

Another fresh event on the calendar is the Michelada Rumble, slated for Aug. 25. Participants visit michelada vendors to infuse their beers with sauces, spices and peppers of their choice, while being entertained by live bands, Lucha Libre wrestling and a car exhibition. Prices range from $20 to $50.

“We’re looking forward to trying something very new,” Bahr said.

For more information, go to

Those who are interested in supporting retired racehorses can attend a fundraiser on July 22 in the Del Mar paddock. The CARMA Cares Hoedown For Horses will begin after last race, around 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $125 each, and include a barbecue dinner, country music, dancing, a mechanical bull competition, no-host bar and photo booth. Call (626) 574-6622 or go to

A returning event with a slight twist is the Turf & Surf BBQ Championship on Aug. 19. This year’s edition will include all-you-can-eat samples of fresh seafood, along with competition-ready brisket, ribs, tri-tip, pork and chicken, and attendees will have the chance to vote for their favorites. Tickets - which range from $40 to $60 - include track admission, unlimited barbecue samples, five beer tastings and a tip sheet. The VIP package includes early event entrance. Go to

Justify Triple
Undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify is expected to be on the Del Mar grounds this summer. Kelley Carlson

The presence of a well-known horse at the track typically brings out the avid racing fans, and many will be hoping to get a glimpse of undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify, who is based in Southern California. Bahr said that the 3-year-old colt is expected to be on the grounds and Del Mar hopes to hold a parade in his honor, but plans had not been confirmed as of press time. This will likely be based on the decision for Justify’s next start, which trainer Bob Baffert has yet to announce. If Justify stays in California, a possibility is the Grade I, $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 18, which is Del Mar’s signature race. That afternoon will be one of the meet’s biggest days, with two other major races on the card (the Grade I, $300,000 Del Mar Oaks, and the Grade II, $250,000 Del Mar Handicap), a Craft Beer Festival and the Pacific Classic Betting Challenge.

The betting challenge - new this year - is a scaled-down version of the track’s Del Mar Handicapping Challenge (July 28-29), and “appeals more to everybody” as it has a lower buy-in of $500, Bahr said. From that fee, $300 will be designated for a live bankroll for betting and $200 will go toward the prize pool. About $50,000 in prizes is expected to be awarded. Register at


There are 13 concerts scheduled this season - one each Friday, and six on weekends - which is more than ever before, Bahr touted. Among the biggest responses so far have been for rapper Ice Cube (Sept. 2), R&B combo Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (Aug. 17), and Latin alt-rock band Café Tacuba (Aug. 31), he said.

As in previous years, concerts are restricted to ages 18 and older and are free with racetrack admission if entry is before the last race. The performances begin shortly afterward.

However, the cost has increased for those who arrive late - $30 for admission and $20 for concert parking.

Meanwhile, the VIP section has been improved with an elevated side stage platform, and guests have access to a private bar and bathrooms. Racetrack admission is included in the $50 fee.

Pre-party bands will begin warming up the crowd about halfway through the race card on Fridays in the Plaza de Mexico.

Food Truck
The Gourmet Food Truck Festival is Aug. 11. Craig Collins

Festivities for foodies and families

Gastronomes can revel in the return of Burgers & Brews on July 21, the Gourmet Food Truck Festival on Aug. 11, and Chef Brian Malarkey’s Taste of the Turf Club on Sundays. They can also look for special discounts throughout the season such as the daily happy hour, held the first hour after gates open. Friday’s happy hour - when Del Mar’s signature drinks are half price - lasts until 6 p.m.

Early risers will once again be able to enjoy breakfast while watching workouts on weekends during Daybreak at Del Mar, hosted by TV broadcaster Michelle Yu. And Donuts Days - consisting of Q&A sessions with jockeys and trainers, activities for kids, and of course, free coffee, juice and doughnuts - are slated from 8 to 10 a.m. July 28 and Aug. 11.

The popular Family Days are back, as well, as parents can take their children to the infield to ride ponies, have their faces painted, and jump around on inflatables on Saturdays. The fun will be “supersized” on July 22, with the addition of the San Diego Gulls slapshot booth, Albion SC soccer clinics, a rock climbing wall, a meet-and-greet with retired racehorse Tortuga Straits, opportunities to pose for photos with jockeys, and more.

Hoping for a winner

There are plenty of betting opportunities at the track - including the new Early Pick 4 and Late Pick 5 - and horseplayers’ chances of winning are enhanced with daily Newcomers’ Seminars and Weekend Handicapping Seminars that provide expert selections and helpful tips.

‘A sensational summer season’

Bahr predicts that this will be another memorable meet.

“With new events like Brigantine Wednesdays, several discounted food and beverage specials, and more concerts than ever, we will have a sensational summer season,” he said.

Del Mar racetrack 2018 season

• Dates: July 18-Sept. 3

• 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. 24 and 31); 2 p.m. Labor Day (Sept. 3)

• 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,

Concert lineup

Fri., July 20-The Psychedelic Furs

Sat., July 21-Iration

Fri., July 27-Steel Pulse

Sat., July 28-Switchfoot

Fri., Aug. 3-Matisyahu

Fri., Aug. 10-Aloe Blacc

Sat., Aug. 11-Reggae Fest w/ Ziggy Marley

Fri., Aug. 17-Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Fri., Aug. 24-Tribal Seeds

Sat., Aug. 25-Warren G and DJ Quick (open to the public after Michelada Rumble)

Fri., Aug. 31-Café Tacvba

Sat., Sept. 1-Slightly Stoopid

Sun., Sept. 2-Ice Cube