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Del Mar Race Season 2018 (Your Complete Guide)

del mar racing season 2017

There’s an electric buzz building along the coast… a palpable excitement floating through the air…  Race Season at Del Mar is upon us!

The season, which runs July 19 through September 4, will be packed with events; traditional, returning, and a few new ones. With about thirty events in thirty-six days, and two scheduled appearances by the No. 1 horse in the world, Arrogate, Del Mar will be as cool and exciting as ever.

Opening Day

On July 19, over 40,000 race fans are expected to attend the most fabulous, fashionable and fun festivities in the west: Opening Day at Del Mar!

Annual Hat Contest

Although the ponies will be running on Opening Day (first post is at 2PM), it’s more about celebrating the season in style, especially when it comes to the hats. Bolder guests participate in Del Mar’s annual tradition, the Opening Day Hats Contest, where entrants put their creativity and style on display for fun and, of course, the opportunity at some prize money. This is always a fun one to watch, as many of the entries are truly imaginative and over the top.

The Party on Opening Day

Celebrate the season in style at the event known. Tickets include Stretch Run Admission and exclusive access to The Party, private betting, Red Bull Tour Bus complete with world-class DJs, DJ, dance floor, games tent, private betting, photo booths, interactive activities, and jumbo screens for race viewing.

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Hats, Heels, and Hooves

And if there’s a party, there naturally must be an after party. Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s Official Opening Day After-Party is a luxury experience held at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. Mingle with other race fans and meet many of the jockeys you cheered on earlier at the racetrack.

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Do the betting terms scramble your brain? You’re not alone. Don’t let that keep you from having fun! You can learn valuable horse racing information, including understanding the odds, easy handicapping methods, money management and insider racing tips at the Newcomers Seminars. Seminars are hosted by Frank Scatoni and Today’s Racing Digest every day in the Plaza de Mexico (just inside the stretch run entrance gate) and start one hour before the first race.

Four O’Clock Fridays

The ever popular summer concert series returns with another great lineup of bands, from reggae to rock.

The majority of the performances will be held on Fridays. On those days, attendees can receive half off of signature cocktails during Happy Hour, from the time gates open until 6PM. Some shows will be held on weekends, so check the schedule to make sure you don’t miss one of your favorites.

For the first time this year, Del Mar will offer a Premium View VIP area closer to the performance. A limited number of tickets are available for the elevated space next to the stage, which also features a private bar and restrooms. Premium View tickets are $50.

This year’s lineup includes the Violent Femmes, The Revivalists, and Eagles of Death Metal, among others. Performances are free with track admission before the start of the final race. If you miss the last race, you’ll have to pay $20. Concert goers must be 18 and up to enter.

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Fun and Fabulous Food Options

Several food-centric events will return to Del Mar this summer, including the Gourmet Food Truck Festival on July 29th, BBQ State Championship on August 20th, the Pizza & Beer Festival on Aug. 26th, and of course, Tacotopia on September 3rd (Promo Code Here).

Every Sunday, race fans can enjoy an exquisite dining experience masterfully created by celebrity chef Brian Malarkey at Taste of the Turf Club. The $150 cost per person includes Turf Club seating and admission, along with an appetizer, entree, dessert and bottomless mimosas or bloody Marys.

More casual fare will be served during Daybreak at Del Mar, from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. weekends. Early risers can eat breakfast in the Clubhouse Terrace Restaurant, watch morning workouts, and gain behind-the-scenes insight from racehorse owner and former jockey Jeff Bloom.

Donut Days are also back, set for July 29th and August 12th, 8AM to 10AM, in the Seaside Terrace. Fans of all ages can enjoy free donuts, orange juice, and coffee, while watching the horses on the track, learning about the sport with question-and-answer sessions with jockeys and trainers, and enjoying family-friendly activities. Jockey Chantal Sutherland is among the confirmed guests on July 29th.

Family Friendly

Bring the whole family out for a day at the Seaside Oval!

Family Weekends

Kids can enjoy pony rides, bounce houses, face painting, and more in the infield. The biggest of the family weekend days, Family Day, is set for August 6. On that day, the infield fun will also include bungee trampolines, rock climbing walls, Jockey Photo Day and the Webkinz plush horse giveaway for kids 12 and younger.

Camp Del Mar

Camp Del Mar is a fun filled day camp for kids 5-12 years old. Kids can now have just as much fun as the adults while at Del Mar. Professional educators and trained counselors (one for every 8 campers) are always on hand. Activities include: Hippity Hop Races right on the track (Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun), miniature golf (Thurs), exploring the farm in the infield, outdoor play, crafts, and more. Camp Del Mar is $24 a day and includes lunch, snack, and a T-shirt.

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Besides the Webkinz plushy, race fans will have the opportunity to go home with a track souvenir on two other occasions.

Commemorative posters of Arrogate will be given to race fans on July 22nd, when the gray 4-year-old colt is scheduled to make his next start in the $300,000 TVG San Diego Handicap on July 22, his first since his victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March.

The track will also distribute towels emblazoned with the Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships logo on TVG Pacific Classic Day on August 19th.

Special Events

Charger’s Day – July 22

This is a chance for many of the Chargers players to say thank you to the people of San Diego who rooted for them through thick and thin during more than half a century in San Diego. Groups of Chargers, organized by decade, will assemble in the winner’s circle after each race to honor the victors, and then head to the Plaza de Mexico for a photo and autograph session with fans. Video clips from the team’s 56 years in San Diego will also be shown.

Country Fest – August 5

Wear your hats, boots, and your biggest buckles for this full day of country leading up to the Billy Currington show that evening. There will be live music, a mechanical bull, and trick roping demonstrations.

Not only that… the annual Western Regional Chili Cookoff will kick off at 1PM in the Seaside Concert Area, to the west of the grandstand, where attendees will be treated to free samples and can vote for their favorites.

Burgers & Brews – August 12

Another new event that’s sure to be a huge hit will be Burgers & Brews on August 12th. Tickets ($34 and up) include admission to the track, the evening’s concert by Ludacris, 10 beer tastings, unlimited samples of patties, and a “fry bar.” Yum!

Tickets can be purchased ahead of the event. Click for more information.

Getting There

Getting into the parking lot can be a nightmare some days, especially when there’s a popular event. Unless you plan to arrive super early, it’s better to find an alternative.

Take a Train

Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner and The Coaster both make stops at Solana Beach Station. Del Mar provides complimentary shuttle service to and from the track. Get off at the Solana Beach station and look for the free double-decker buses.

This is also a great parking option, as there’s a large parking area just beyond the train terminal. Just park your car and jump on the same double decker shuttle.

Take a Car

Of course, you can always be dropped off right at the front by taxi, car, or limo. If you decide to Uber, the track has a special Uber zone drop off and pick up area, making a ride share that much easier.

Share the Fun with YNC

If and when you do make it down to the track, make sure to tag us on your social media pictures with #YourNorthCounty. We just might share them in our feed!

Have fun!

Photo Credit: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

Sugar Jones: Sugar Jones has been blogging about life since 2008. She has contributed to various local news stations for lifestyle segments, speaking about tech, social media, travel, food, and family.