Del Mar Diaries: Splendid Saturday

The Life

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is an amazing place for so many reasons: not only does it offer top-notch racing in seaside Southern California, but the track itself doubles as a concert venue on weekends throughout the meet. On Friday night, I was lucky enough to catch a Jurassic Five show that Del Mar puts on for free after the races; it was an amazing concert, and I and thousands of others danced and sang along as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.

I may have emitted a high-pitch squeal when “Countdown” began and then sung along to every word. OK, I totally did. That song is the jam.

After the Jurassic Five show, I headed home because I had a huge Saturday planned: I was heading to the track early in the morning to watch horses train; plus, there was a fantastic day of racing to take in the afternoon that would be capped off by a Casino Night-themed fundraiser for CARMA, the California Retirement Management Account dedicated to retired racehorses.

When I woke up in the morning, I was greeted by the very last thing you would expect when you’re near San Diego in July: rain drops on my rental car! But nothing was going to stop me from heading to the track: I had a hot date with a Breeders’ Cup winner, after all! Goldencents won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile last year, and he’s added to his already impressive resume by becoming a prolific tweeter. I highly recommend you give him a follow - he’s a hoot on Twitter and loves to chat!

He’s also amazing when you get to see him in person. Sharla Sanders, who works with Goldencents’ trainer Doug O’Neill, hides carrots in his hay every day; the horse basically gets an Easter Egg hunt every morning. Needless to say, he’s a very happy equine, and he’s very social and outgoing. Naturally, that meant that we had to take a selfie together!

Sharla also let me meet a few of the barn’s up-and-coming superstars: the following horses are two years old, which means that they’re just beginning their racing careers. I can’t wait to see what they do! The handsome chestnut (his color, a rich copper hue) below is named Wake Up Nick, and he’s a doll.

Henry’s Holiday is a total ham – he’s another one that loves attention, and would get very jealous if he thought that the spotlight wasn’t on him. I understand that feeling.

And this lovely lady is all the way from Ireland! At just two years of age, She’s Complete has already won a race and has travelled across the Atlantic Ocean and the North American Continent – that’s pretty impressive! She’s also a total sweetheart, and I think I’ve found my next equine obsession.

After I had played with as many horses as possible, I headed back to my car to get ready for the races. There were two stakes scheduled for the afternoon, and I was not alone in my excitement for the day – when I arrived at Del Mar, there were people everywhere who were dressed to the nines and ready for an excellent day at the track.

The first major race of the afternoon was the Osunitas Stakes for fillies and mares (AKA female horses) three years old and up travelling a mile and a sixteenth on the beautiful grass course. Twelve horses were lined up to battle for the $90,000 purse, and as they charged onto the grass as the race began the roar of the crowd added to the thrill of the competition.

And after a mile, it was Cozze Up Lady who stole the show, rewarding her supporters with $24.20 for every $2 they bet on her to win. Score!

In the time after the Osunitas Stakes and before the biggest race on the card, the San Clemente Handicap, I had a serious brain wave: the Del Mar press box has ice cream in it as a treat for the journalists who cover the sport, and it has a soda machine. You guys: it was time for a treat that I hadn’t had in years: a Coke float. (OK, it was Pepsi; but I’m from Florida and all carbonated beverages are Coke to me.)  Anyway, it was insanely delicious and inspired a short-lived trend for everyone in the eating area. Yum!

After that delectable dessert break, it was time for the San Clemente Handicap, a test for three-year-old fillies going a mile on the lawn. This race attracts very high level of competition, as the reward is $200,000 and invaluable prestige for the winner. The horses were all sensationally turned out and on their toes in the moments for the race, and I was having a very tough time deciding who I liked the best as the fillies and their jockeys made their way to the starting gate.

Before I knew it, the race was on! There really is nothing like the thrill of witnessing elite Thoroughbreds surging onto the racetrack on a beautiful afternoon; it’s something that everyone should experience.

After a mile’s journey, it was another longshot, Istanford, who took home the San Clemente glory with jockey Rafael Bejarano in the saddle.

As the pair returned to the winner’s circle, Istanford’s trainer Michael Stidham was wreathed in smiles as he awaited his filly.

Jockey Rafael Bejarano was also ecstatic when he arrived at the Winner’s Circle, and high-fives were exchanged before Istanford and all of her connections posed for their victory photographs.

After that, I had to boogie out of the track pretty quickly since there was a fundraiser at the Del Mar Hilton that benefits CARMA, a retirement program for Thoroughbreds who are transitioning to a career off of the racetrack. The theme was Casino Night, and tons of people had shown up to support retired racehorses and try their hand at poker and table games.

And for those guests who wanted to donate without trying their hand at the tables, there were tons of silent auction items that included everything from a blanket belonging to Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome to bobbleheads of jockeys. I had to remind myself several times that the tiny carryon I brought with me wouldn’t hold much aside from my clothes and camera!

There were also tons of delicious things to nibble on, including but not limited to a mashed potato bar (WHY am I just learning that this is a thing that exists?!) to beautiful cheese plates.

As the night whittled down to the final table, I was so happy to hear that CARMA and the retired racehorses of California had benefited so much from the evening’s festivities while all of the event’s guests had enjoyed a spectacular evening. From dawn until well past dusk, the equine atmosphere of Del Mar is a party scene with a heart, and Saturday’s myriad events proved just how much this community loves their horses.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll be back soon with all of the action from Del Mar’s Eddie Read Stakes day!

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