Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has a history of being a mecca for celebrities; after all, the San Diego-area racetrack was founded by Bing Crosby, so it makes sense that the Southern California track is a magnet for celebs escaping Los Angeles in the middle of summer. Del Mar is one of those race places where the stars – both human and equine - come out while the sun is up, and the Saturday before the Pacific Classic was a shining example of that.
I spent the early part of my day watching the incredible horse racing action from Saratoga – the Travers festivities were outstanding and included a breakout performance by the winner V. E. Day. It was such a fun race to watch, and runner-up Wicked Stong (who was also trained by winning conditioner Jimmy Jerkens) was gallant in his narrow defeat.
When the racing action began at Del Mar, I was delighted to see how many people came out for a fantastic afternoon of Thoroughbred sport.
I even spotted a bride-to-be in the paddock who had worked in a veil into her outfit a very stylish way – major kudos to her!
I also caught sight of the Del Mar mascot, Pony Boy:
Naturally, we had to have a selfie together!
One of the magical things about Del Mar is that anyone can feel like a celebrity for the day – even little kids. The track has a day camp every afternoon complete with instructors from the YMCA.
The camp includes everything from pony rides to infield fun, but the pinnacle of the camp comes after the sixth race when the Hippity Hop Derby commences. Each camper is handed a massive bouncey ball and the kids get to race to the finish line. It looks like a ton of fun, and I would totally partake if I hadn’t aged out of the conditions a long time ago! The start of the race was serious, and the staff member in charge of kicking it off had to sprint out of the way of the contenders.
Today’s winner was a fierce competitor as he soared out of the #2 starting position and bopped his way to an easy victory.
And despite a few unscheduled dismounts from some of the other Hippity Hop Derby contestants, everyone had a great time and crossed the finish line at the end.
I mean, how much fun does that look like?
After the Hippity Hop Derby, there was even more awesomeness scheduled at the Del Mar finish line: the amazing Bo Derek was on hand at the track and had accepted the ALS #IceBucketChallenge. As she was waiting for her freezing charity work, she paused to take a photo with Kentucky Derby- and Preakness-winning jockey Victor Espinoza, HRTV’s Molly McGill and ESPN’s Kenny Mayne:
After that, like a real trooper, Bo Derek not only drenched herself with a bucket of ice water, but also withstood several dousings from jockeys Joe Talamo, Drayden Van Dyke and Espinoza. Seriously, this woman is my hero!
Bonus vine of Ms. Derek icing herself, just because she was so awesome about it:
The awesome @boderek takes the #ALSIceBucketChallenge at @delmarracing! https://t.co/g3aWPIVVYk
— Americas Best Racing (@ABRLive) August 24, 2014
Apologies for the amateurish nature of that video: I was shooting it on my cell phone with my left hand while taking photos with my right, all while kneeling so the photographers behind me could get their pictures, too. It was a juggling act for sure!
The fun of the afternoon wasn’t even close to being over yet at that point: there was still a huge race left to be run – the Del Mar Handicap. This race is a Breeders’ Cup "Win and You’re In" event, which means that the winner stamps his ticket to the World Championships in November at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles. It’s a major victory for the winner, and 10 horses were lined up to duke it out for the honor.
As we waited for the horses to break out of the starting gate to begin the race, I noticed a distinctly Del Mar sight above the turf course: a para-sailor had flown from the beach to steal a peek at the goings-on at the racetrack. I’m pretty sure that can only happen at a place where the turf meets the surf!
Then it was race time! As the horses charged past the grandstand for the first time, the race was wide open and the crowd was roaring its support for their chosen contenders.
But as the field turned for home, it was Big John B who led them all alone to the finish line, stamping his ticket to the big show this fall.
As his team surrounded him in the winner’s circle and cameras clicked away, I became even more excited for tomorrow’s Pacific Classic festivities.
It’s always a great day of racing here at Del Mar; but with Jim Rome’s Shared Belief facing Joe Torre’s Game On Dude in the Classic, it’s bound to be a race for the ages. I hope you’ll join me for all of the fun with my next Diary recapping the afternoon’s events, and, until then, I’ll leave you with some more photos that hopefully illustrate the gorgeousness that is Del Mar.