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LWers are off to the races

LWers are off to the races LWers are off to the races


by Joanna Matos

LW contributor

Powered by the urge to venture beyond Orange County, fellow Leisure Worlder Glenna Hoff and I chose a motorcoach day tour with Good Times Travel to Del Mar Racetrack for a exciting day of thoroughbred horse racing.

Upon arriving at the beautiful, trilevel Spanish Colonial Revival venue, we took notice of the splendid flower beds and surrounding landscaping. Anxious to learn a bit of history, we discovered that after the successful opening of the Santa Anita Park racetrack in Arcadia in 1934, William A. Quigley, stockbroker and resident of La Jolla, formed the idea of starting a racetrack on the Del Mar Fairgrounds. He pitched his concept to performer Bing Crosby, and together, they founded the Del Mar Turf club on May 6, 1936.

It was built by a partnership with Crosby, plus actors Pat O’Brien, Gary Cooper, Joe E. Brown, Charles Howard and Oliver Hardy. When Del Mar opened in 1937, Crosby was at the gate to personally greet fans.

On Aug. 12, 1938, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club hosted a $25,000 winner-take-all race between Howard’s Seabiscuit and the Binglin Stable’s colt, Ligaroti. It was the first nationwide broadcast of a thoroughbred race by NBC radio.

In front of a record crowd that helped make the fledgling Del Mar race track a success, Seabiscuit won by a nose.

Between 1942 and 1944, the facility was only closed because of World War II. The grounds were used for training by the U.S. Marine Corps, then as a manufacturing site for parts for B-17 bombers.

The first Bing Crosby Stakes was held at Del Mar in 1946. The track had large purses, many of which were won by famous jockey Bill Shoemaker. The horse-racing track is exactly 1 mile long, and races are run counterclockwise. With a capacity of 44,000, it is the second largest horse-racing venue in the western United States.

Live racing runs from July through early September, and the second meet runs from Nov. 3-28.

Glenna and I wanted to view the horses up close before placing any bets. The horse paddocks are surrounded by a circular, manicured, green grass viewing area with gorgeous flower beds and a walkway where the jockeys show their horses’ prowess and owners’ colors.

Once back in our third-level shaded grandstand seats, we tried to decipher the Del Mar racing program and the handicapping structure.

Glenna trusted my judgement in the fifth race, and I picked the favorite, Chollima, as a $2 “show” bet. The horse won.

In the sixth race, we bet $2 each on American Bourbon and Cecile’s Chapter to place. Cecile’s Chapter won.

We didn’t win a bucketful, but we had fun—and we learned “where the turf meets the surf.”

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