The Del Mar horse races and racetrack experience is synonymous with summer fun in San Diego. Its slogan "Cool as Ever" is pretty much right on the money. This historic yet hip betting and gaming venue has set itself far apart from the stuffy, creepy-old-men-ridden tracks of old. Here, across the street from the dazzling Del Mar coastline (and just a 20 minute car or train ride from downtown), you'll find modern gaming facilities, well-kept track and grandstands, stunning horses whose power overwhelms you down the home stretch, concessions full of cocktail choices, and a constant energetic buzz in the air driven by the anticipation of the next race. And although you'll find all ages, demos, and levels of racing enthusiasts in this very casual atmosphere, hands down the track is known for the ladies. Dressed to the nines sipping martinis or in super casual beachwear slugging down beers, it's tough to beat a perfect summer day out surrounded by pretty girls and even prettier ponies.
Locals' tips: Start your race day with lunch at Pizza Port in Solana Beach (www.pizzaport.com) with some garlic beer buddies and Pizza Port craft brews. Then walk right across the street to the front of the Solana Beach train station where free double decker shuttles run continuously all day to and from the track. It's an easy 5 minute ride and you avoid the $10-15 parking fees. The gates open at 11:30am but the first race (or post) is at 2:00pm (with post time every half hour for typically 8 races per day); Fridays at 4:00pm. If you're new to betting on the ponies, check out the free Newcomers Seminar every racing day at the track's Plaza de Mexico which begins one hour before the first race. Admission is cash only and worth it to get a Reserved seat ($5-10 which you can purchase when you get there; you'll only have trouble on a day with a big, signature race like the Pacific Classic. For those days, reserve weeks ahead.) Reserved seats are on Levels 1 or 2 near the finish line and you literally feel the ground shake as the horses trample to the race's end. Twenty minutes before post time, check out the action in the paddock, where you can get a look up close at the beautiful animals in the next race parading around and hear some additional info (from what's in the standard program) before placing those winning bets. The lines to make bets can be long at windows with live clerks. Put your betting money on a voucher instead and often you can walk right up to betting machines to place your bets. And in typical San Diego fashion, head to the patio at 17 Hands near the paddock for some good Mexican food (like the barbacoa tacos- delish!) and beer on tap. Be sure to check out the Del Mar concert series schedule for free concerts after the last race from often big-name bands. Tuesdays are typically dark (meaning no races that day) but check ahead of time as days may vary (www.dmtc.com).
Check out Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for more info.
Hey Locals! Favorite race track rituals? Family-friendly tips? Chime in below.