Del Mar’s Opening Day offers fashion, festivities and more

An aerial view of a previous Opening Day After Party at L’Auberge Del Mar
(Courtesy of L’Auberge Del Mar

It’s time to bring forth the flowers and fashion, and let the festivities begin.

July 17 is Del Mar’s Opening Day, an event that draws everyone from celebrities and socialites to casual racing fans and curious onlookers. Everywhere one turns, there are outrageous hats, animated bettors and prancing ponies.

Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions, said the track is expecting a crowd size similar to last year’s, which was nearly 35,000 people.

“It will certainly be a day for partying, people watching and fun as always,” he said.

Those in search of the perfect outfit, headgear and accessories can explore their options at some of the local businesses. L’Auberge Del Mar, 1540 Camino del Mar, will host several pop-up shops, including Christine A. Moore Millinery, Lourdes Chavez Couture and Élevée Custom Menswear. These shops will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. July 15 and July 16; and from 9 a.m. to noon July 17 in the resort’s lobby.

Bahr said he received a tip that floral fashions may be big this year.

The season will officially commence when the gates open at 11:30 a.m. July 17, with the first race slated for 2 p.m. First-timers can learn the basics of betting at the Newcomers’ Seminar, held at 1 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico. Host Frank Scatoni and Today’s Racing Digest will provide free expert selections, as well.

Creative hats are everywhere at the Del Mar racing season’s Opening Day event.
(Courtesy of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club<br>)

Meanwhile, The Party will be under way in the Seaside Cabana, west of the grandstand. The $35 ticket includes Stretch Run admission, along with access to craft beer and cocktail bars, photo booths, private wagering, jumbo video boards, and the Red Bull Tour Bus with disc jockeys. Go to

Another Del Mar Opening Day tradition planned is the Hats Contest, where participants can win a share of more than $5,000 in prizes.

“We encourage everyone to come out (and participate) — it’s free to enter,” Bahr said.

The categories are Best Racing Theme, Most Glamorous, Most Outrageous, Best Fascinator and Best Flowers, and entries are due by 3 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico. Finalists will be announced after the fifth race, and winners will be named after the sixth race.

First place in each category will win $300, along with a Studio Savvy Salon gift basket. Second place will receive $200, while third place will net $100. The contest’s grand prize winner will be presented with a one-night stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar and dinner for two at the Addison Restaurant, featuring Chef William Bradley’s multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings, along with a Studio Savvy Salon gift basket. Everyone who enters is a winner, though, as all participants will be given two free admission passes to return to the races.

Additional Opening Day activities include the arrival of skydivers; Sing With Bing, when guests belt out Bing Crosby’s “Where the Turf Meets the Surf”; and the first stakes race of the meet, the Runhappy Oceanside Stakes, renamed for thoroughbred racing’s champion sprinter of 2015.

However, the celebration won’t stop with the final race of the day.

 “Hats, Heels & Hooves: The Ultimate Opening Day After-Party” transforms The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe’s panoramic lawns for an over-the-top evening of decadent food, creative cocktails, curated entertainment and fashionable hats. Proceeds from the evening benefit After the Finish Line, which provides a safe haven for retired thoroughbred horses.

The event will be held Wednesday, July 17, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Cost: $125 general admission/VIP spaces available. For tickets and more information, visit

 The Official After Pony Party will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, 5921 Valencia Circle in Rancho Santa Fe. The $125 general admission ticket includes entry, a welcome drink, all-you-can-eat heavy hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Call (858) 759-6493 or go to

 Also, L’Auberge Del Mar will also host the 2019 Opening Day After-Party, scheduled from 5 p.m. to midnight. There will be entertainment by Southern California DJ FishFonics and DJ Gabe Vega, and culinary bites prepared by the KITCHEN 1540 team. Tickets are $229 (plus tax) if purchased by July 16, or $260 (plus tax) on the day of the event; go to, or call (800) 245-9757 or (858) 259-1515.