Entertainment & Events

Deals abound at the Del Mar races this summer

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Photo courtesy Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

Photo courtesy Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

All of the rides have been taken down, all of the fried cheeseburgers have been eaten, and all of the carnies have climbed in their trucks and skulked away to the next town. And so – finally – the Del Mar Racetrack restores its signature beauty and touch of class in preparation for another great season of thoroughbred racing.

The 2009 meet boasts another vibrant schedule of music, giveaways, and special events, all at one of the most picturesque venues in all of sport. This year Del Mar celebrates its 70th year of racing, and to commemorate this milestone the track is planning to offer the public a myriad of budget-friendly options to help patrons out during this time of economic distress.

free and easy wednesdaysOne of the new promotions this year is what they’re calling “Free and Easy Wednesdays.” Every Wednesday (except opening day) you can get free admission, a free program, and a free reserved seat in the Stretch Run seating section, as well as half-priced beer, sodas, and hot dogs. Also new this year is “Oggi’s Pizza and Ponies Thursdays” which offers admission, a reserved seat, a program, a personal pizza and a soda for just $11 (You’ll need to drop by an Oggi’s location beforehand to pick up a coupon for this deal).

Another money-saver at the track is Diamond Club membership. You can sign up anytime at the front gates. It’s entirely free, and with membership you’ll receive half-priced admission to the races everyday, as well as other offers and giveaways during the season.

Plus, you get to tell people you’re a member of the “Diamond Club”, which makes you sound fancier than you probably are.

Once you get inside you’ll find plenty of great events for the 2009 season. Returning once again is the extremely popular summer concert series (see our earlier article about the concert series here) This year’s bands include Pinback, The Airborne Toxic Event, Super Diamond, and a ton of great reggae bands including The Wailers and Steel Pulse.

beerfestThe highlight of the concert series, however, has got to be when the Flaming Lips perform on Saturday, August 15th. The psychedelic alt-rock superstars are making their second appearance at Del Mar, and will be performing on the same day as the Del Mar Beer Fest which will be taking place in the infield. The Flaming Lips have been described as “one of the greatest live bands in the world” by Rolling Stone and “one of the bands you must see before you die.” by Q Magazine. I’m pretty sure that means you have to go.

On August 1st, FM 94/9 hosts its local music showcase, and on the same day the track holds yet another craft microbrew festival, this time paired with a delicious Chili Cook-off sanctioned by none other than the International Chili Society. For a nominal fee you can sample a wide assortment of spicy stews and wash it all down with some of the finest local microbrews San Diego has to offer.

And, of course, there’s the actual horse racing. If you don’t have a foolproof wagering technique like I do (i.e. bet on every single horse in every singe race), then you may want to take advantage of the free handicapping lessons offered by the track before the first race every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Professional horse players will lead you through the ins and outs of the various bets, and even share a few strategies. It’s a brief and informal session and can really help you from losing all your cash (maybe).

Del Mar is known throughout racing as one of the finest tracks in the world, and its signature event – the $1 Million Pacific Classic Race – is a highlight of the season. It’s a high-stakes race for only the swiftest thoroughbreds, and past winners have gone on to fame at prestigious contests such as the Kentucky Derby. If you’ve never seen the Pacific Classic before, it really is quite a spectacle – don’t miss it. This year’s Classic takes place near the end of the meet on September 6.

But there’s nothing quite like the spectacle of opening day, which is right around the corner this Wednesday, July 22. Check back here next week for my recap of the sights, sounds and celebrities at this official kickoff of the party of the summer, including the famous Hat Contest. Hope to see you out at Del Mar next Wednesday, for opening day “where the turf meets the surf!”

(I’ll be easy to spot – the guy frantically running to the ATM after each race.)

The Del Mar Races
Wed. July 22 – Wed. September 9 (no racing on Mon/Tue)
First Post for Races: 2:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. on Fridays)
858.755.1141 (general info line)


  1. BEES

    July 20, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Very picturesque writing. Nice to get the scoop on the new deals. With the sad demise of Hollywood Park, we hope similar calamity doesn’t happen to Del Mar. It just isn’t summer without a trip to Del Mar whether one wins or loses. The people watching,the stretch run, the rush and frustration can’t be beat. I enjoy your writing Mr. Elliott. I’ll be watching for you as I too rush to the ATMs 🙂

  2. starfox

    July 20, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    This actually makes Del Mar sound interesting and not just a campground of Del Mar/La Jolla/ RB-ites who want to feel higher class than they actually are (Money don’t buy class). My last memory of the patrons of this fair establishment: big hats galore… white wine sprtizers in hand… fake smiles and oversized sunglasses…. not mention linen jackets that belong in the Miami Vice era! This has been my image of Del Mar and it looks like its been maybe a singular view that perhaps has now been expanded.

    Thank you for making it seem open to all and definitely accessible to the common (and unemployed) man. Its good to know that even Del Mar has gotten savvy to the fact that not EVERYBODY can afford crazy expensive seats and is doing their own ‘economic recovery’ plan.

    Now,my only question is… who will I be accompanying on this new journey of horses, cheap pizza and hot dogs. Mmmmm…. hot dogs.

    Nice writing too. Like the style.

  3. Miss Jelly

    July 21, 2009 at 10:49 am

    I’ve never known where to start at the racetrack, this is a great intro! This sounds much more accessible then I’ve pictured it in the past. Maybe it’s time I modify my strategy of betting on the horse with the cutest name and attend those lessons. And pizza, beer and the Flaming Lips?!? I’ll definitely be checking it out this year. Now all I need is a ginormous hat (maybe with some faux fruit/animals on it?) Great article.

  4. Trifecta

    August 11, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Love the track! And this article sums up a lot of the less than charming aspects of it as well as some of the more engaging and fun parts. Opening day has turned into quite the scene and Mr Elliott draws a humorous and true picture with his prose. Thanks for a great article!

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