2023 Summer Racing Season: Opening Day kicks off with celebrations

Steffi Poce
Steffi Poce won the Grand Prize in the Opening Day Hats Contest in 2022 as well as the prize for Best Racing Theme.
(Jon Clark)

Suit up and get ready for the call of “Rider’s up” at the Del Mar racetrack.

Opening Day is July 21, and celebrations are being planned all day and evening, at areas on and off the site.

Entry into the track itself is currently limited, as general admission, grandstand seating and trackside tables sold out weeks ahead of time, but there are a couple of options still available. According to Chris Bahr, Del Mar’s director of events and promotions, the crowd size is once again being capped in the “low to mid-20,000s.”

“We did what we did last year and are following the (2021) Breeders’ Cup model to ensure everyone will have a fantastic experience,” he said. “At that number, there is no waiting in lines, it’s easy to get around, you can make wagers and get food at reasonable times.”

As of July 9, tickets could still be purchased for The Party with Volo. The pre-party will start at 9 a.m. at locations in Pacific Beach, downtown San Diego and Encinitas. The buses will begin to leave for the track at 11:45 a.m., and guests will have a VIP entrance and party at the races, before heading back to their pre-party site. The last returning bus will depart the track 30 minutes after the final race. The cost is $175 including fees; go to

Participants at last year’s Opening Day Hts Contest.
Participants at last year’s Opening Day Hts Contest.
(Jon Clark)

A second option is The Grand event on the Tahona Terrace, which debuted at Del Mar last year. The $1,000 price tag includes valet parking and Turf Club admission, a hosted buffet, cocktails from Patrón’s master mixologist, music provided by a disc jockey, and a complimentary take-home bottle of Patron’s new premium “El Alto” tequila. A portion of the proceeds will benefit California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), dedicated to rehabilitation, retraining and retirement of racehorses in California. Go to

Del Mar’s gates will open for entry at 11:30 a.m., with the first post scheduled for 2 p.m.

“Opening Day … especially the first race … has an electric atmosphere that carries all the way through the day,” Bahr said. In keeping with tradition, the first race will be contested at a mile on the main track, with the horses starting in front of the crowd. The featured race will be later in the day, the $100,000 Caesars Sportsbook Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf.

Adding to this year’s excitement is a $1 million Pick Six, which can be won onsite or offtrack. If one person has the only Pick 6 winning combination, they are guaranteed to win the $1 million - but the catch is that it has to be the only ticket, Bahr said. The bet will be for the final six races of the day’s card.

Fashion is also an integral part of Opening Day, and it will be on full display during the annual Hats Contest. More than $4,000 worth of prizes will be awarded, and the grand prize is a one-night stay and meal for two at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in Rancho Santa Fe, plus a $500 Studio Savvy Salon gift basket. Entries will be taken until 3 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico, in the categories of Best Racing Theme, Most Glamorous, Best Fascinator and Best Flowers. Winners will be announced after the sixth race.

After the races are over, various off-track locations plan to continue the festivities.

The Official After Pony Party will be from 6 to 10 p.m. at Rancho Valencia, 5921 Valencia Circle. The $325 general admission includes entry, a welcome cocktail, an “endless” buffet, a cash bar, music provided by DJ Irie, and dancing. Go to

In addition, L’Auberge Del Mar, at 1540 Camino del Mar, will host its post-race party from 5 p.m. to midnight. For $300, guests can dance to music from ‘80s cover band BETAMAXX and resident disc jockeys Gabe Vega and DJ FishFonics, while noshing on gourmet bites. Go to