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Del Mar’s summer racing season returns with a wide variety of events

Flightline, shown winning an allowance optional claiming race
Flightline, shown winning an allowance optional claiming race at Del Mar last summer, is one of the top racehorses in the country and is being pointed toward the Grade I, $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Sept. 3, according to multiple media outlets.
(Kelley Carlson)

It’s full speed ahead this summer at the Del Mar racetrack.

While the schedule of activities in 2021 was abbreviated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this season will have a calendar that is chock-full of events, which visitors are more accustomed to seeing.

“We’re raring to go,” said Chris Bahr, Del Mar’s director of events and promotions. “Not only do we have world-class horse racing, but racegoers can enjoy other things we have to offer (as well).”

The festivities begin July 22 and continue each week — Thursday through Sunday — through Sept. 11, along with a special Labor Day program on Sept. 5. And this season, there is one flat general admission fee - $8 will grant guests access to both sides of the grandstand, as the “Stretch Run” and “Clubhouse” designations have been eliminated.

Fans can once again expect to cheer on some of the top thoroughbreds in training, as Del Mar hosts one of the country’s premier summer race meets. This season, there will be 34 major races worth a total of $8.275 million, a record for the track.

“This is Del Mar shining bright, and I believe our horsemen and women are going to be delighted with it,” said David Jerkens, one of the track’s vice presidents and also the racing secretary. “Across the board, we have exceptional offerings for most any type of good horse you’d care to bring our way. We’re proud to present this program, and expect it will be well-received.”

The marquee race will be the Grade I, $1 million TVG Pacific Classic, which will be run for the 32nd time on Sept. 3. The 1 1/4-mile event for 3-year-olds and older is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade I, $6 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 5 at Keeneland racetrack in Lexington, Ky. According to Bahr and multiple media outlets, one of the potential TVG Pacific Classic entrants is Flightline, currently the top-ranked racehorse in the United States. Trained by John Sadler, the 4-year-old colt has won all four of his starts by a combined total of 43 1/2 lengths, and one of those victories came in an allowance optional claiming race at Del Mar last summer.

Horses will also be the focus of a new event at the track this year, the Art of Racing. Starting at noon Aug. 6, visitors can stroll the Plaza de Mexico, listen to music and sip wine while observing equine artists in action. Artwork will be displayed and available for sale.

“It will be a colorful day,” Bahr said.

A taste of what’s to come

There will be no shortage of opportunities to wine and dine at the track this summer, as Del Mar is bringing back many fan-favorite events, some for the first time since 2019.

One is Uncorked on Aug. 13, where patrons age 21 and older can sample from more than 100 wines from around the world. Prices range from $65 to $80, with fare from food trucks sold separately. Proceeds will benefit Urban Surf 4 Kids, which helps at-risk youths and foster kids through water and surf therapy.

Another headliner will be the Taco & Beer Festival on Aug. 20. The $40 general admission covers five, 5-ounce beer tasters along with track admission, a racing program and a tip sheet, while the $55 VIP upgrade also gets visitors two tacos and early entry at 1 p.m. Designated drivers can join in for $20, and a la carte items will be available for purchase.

A week later, on Aug. 27, the Seaside Cabana area’s beach-casual atmosphere will be transformed into a Mardi Gras-style party with the Taste of New Orleans. Revelers can nosh on Cajun cuisine such as gumbo and jambalaya while sipping on hurricanes and frozen daiquiris. The experience will be further enhanced with face painters, bead vendors, hat-making opportunities and live music. Tickets are $8 for ages 11-20, and $29 for 21 and older.

There will also be some weekly festivities, starting July 29, such as Four O’Clock Fridays (which will move to 3 p.m. Aug. 26). Up until 2 hours after the first post, Diamond Club members can get a 50 percent discount on Del Mar’s signature drinks as part of the Happy Hour promotion. For a higher-end experience, racegoers can partake in Turf Club Fridays. The $125 fee includes Turf Club admission and a table reservation, two drink tickets and an appetizer buffet.

Those looking to start their day with some breakfast and coffee can head to the track early on weekends for Daybreak at Del Mar. From 7:30 to 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays in the Clubhouse Terrace, diners can fuel up while watching the horses’ workouts and gaining insights from racing broadcaster Michelle Yu.

Also on Sundays, brunch and bottomless mimosas and bloody Marys are part of the Taste of the Turf Club experience. The $125 cost also includes club admission, general parking and a table seat.

For more information or to purchase tickets for these events, go to www.dmtc.com.

A “Classic” holiday weekend

Typically, the TVG Pacific Classic is slated for mid- to late August, but for only the second time since its inaugural running in 1991, it will be held in September, and it will kick off Labor Day weekend.

Along with the Classic on Sept. 3, there will be three Grade II, $300,000 races: the Del Mar Handicap, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Grade I, $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 5; the Del Mar Mile; and the Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby. The $125,000 Shared Belief Stakes will also be contested that afternoon.

“It will be a fabulous day for the hard-core racing fans,” Bahr said.

It might even be spectacular for a lucky few, as it’s a “Mandatory Payout” day - the bettors with the most number of winners on a “Pick Six” wager will go home with extra cash. (Other such days will be held Aug. 6 and Closing Day, Sept. 11.)

Serious handicappers can also enter the Pacific Classic Betting Challenge at the track and via TVG.com, with up to two entries per person. From the $3,000 buy-in, $2,000 will be used for the live bankroll, and $1,000 will go toward the prize pool. There will be cash prizes, and 2022 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries and National Horseplayer Championship (NHC) seats will be awarded to the top players. For contest questions, contact Bahr at chris@dmtc.com.

On Sept. 4, Del Mar will bring back Family Fun Day. Bahr noted that families often get together during the holiday weekend and are looking for things to do, so “we thought it would be a good fit.” Activities will include rock climbing walls, inflatables and obstacle courses, bungee trampolines, meet-and-greets with Pony Boy, a game zone, face painters and more. Admission is free for children younger than 18, and they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

To round out the weekend, there will be a special race day card on Labor Day (Sept. 5), with first post at 1 p.m.

Summer debut of a fall favorite

College Day - usually a November event - will be commemorated for the first time during a summer meet, as the upcoming season will conclude later than in past years. On Sept. 10, students with a valid ID can receive free racetrack admission and grandstand seating. Live music and drink specials will also be part of the experience.

Playing the ponies

Besides the Sept. 3 Pacific Classic Betting Challenge, handicappers have two additional opportunities to test their skills against other players.

The first is the on-track Handicapping Challenge, planned for July 30-31. It’s a $5,000 buy-in, up to two entries per person, with a $3,500 live bankroll and $1,500 going toward the prize pool. As with the Pacific Classic challenge, there will be cash prizes and entries into other handicapping contests awarded. Contact Bahr for questions.

Also, on Aug. 6, there is the Charity Challenge that benefits LRF Cares, which provides after care for thoroughbred racehorses after their racing careers are finished. There is a $600 buy-in, with $300 designated for the live bankroll and $300 for the prize pool. Sixty percent of the pool will be returned for cash and prizes that include handicapping contest entries; the rest will go toward LRF Cares. The contest can be played on site or at TVG.com; contact Renee Parcell at lrfcares@gmail.com for registration questions, or Bahr for contest questions.

Bettors can qualify for some of these contests through “feeder” events at horsetourneys.com, Bahr added.

Regardless of whether racegoers are playing for pocket change or “serious” money, there are resources available to gather winning tips. Bahr said there will be handicapping seminars with guest speakers at 1:05 p.m. on weekends at the west end of the tarmac. In addition, Frank Scatoni will once again host the “Best Bet” seminars at 11 a.m. Sundays via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Horse racing enthusiasts can take a gamble of another kind by becoming an owner. At the New Owner Seminar from 9 to 10:30 a.m. July 24 at the Veranda Cafe, a panel of experts will provide information about how to get involved, followed by a tour from the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC). Reservations are recommended; go to dmtc.com.

Free fun

Youths 17 and younger and active military receive free admission to the track each race day, but there are perks for others on designated dates, as well.

Every Thursday, Diamond Club members can take advantage of the Free & Easy promotion, which includes admission, a program and a grandstand seat at no cost, along with $6 pints of Coors Light. Club members can also receive 50 percent discounts on other days, and signup is free; go to www.dmtc.com.

Also, there will be Seniors’ Days for ages 62 and older, slated for Aug. 7 and 28. Besides the free admission, they will also be given a free program and seat; a valid ID is required.

“We’re ready to get back to the standard full calendar of events,” Bahr emphasized.

Del Mar racetrack 2022 season

Dates: July 22-Sept. 11

Location: Via de la Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard

Post time: Opening Day (July 22)-2 p.m.; Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays-2 p.m. July 23-Aug. 28, 1 p.m. Sept 1-11; Fridays-4 p.m. July 29-Aug. 19, 3 p.m. Aug. 26-Sept. 9; Labor Day (Sept. 5)-1 p.m.

General Admission: Daily-$8, Diamond Club-$4, Opening Day-SOLD OUT; free for 17 and younger and active military

Parking: General-$10, Preferred-$15, Valet-$25

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

The winner's circle presentation for the 2021 Grade I TVG Pacific Classic
The winner’s circle presentation for the 2021 Grade I TVG Pacific Classic, won by Tripoli. John Sadler, third person standing from the right, trained the winner, is also the conditioner of one of this year’s candidates, Flightline.
(Kelley Carlson)


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