Nestled just a few furlongs from the beach and 20 miles north of San Diego, Del Mar Racetrack is best known as the place “Where the Surf Meets the Turf.” Every year from July to September, crowds fill the seaside racetrack to watch a full schedule of races, including the August 26th Pacific Classic – one of the premier American races for older horses. Get into the summer spirit by learning a little more about Del Mar.

Bright History

Known for its light ocean breezes and summer sunshine, Del Mar has an equally bright history. The track was founded in 1937 by Bing Crosby and a group of other actors. Crosby was there to personally greet the first fan through the gates when Del Mar opened. In 1938, the track became nationally famous following a furious race between Seabiscuit and Ligaroti. Interestingly, Ligaroti is buried in grave in the Del Mar infield. Unlike many tracks, Del Mar has seen increased attendance and is one of the nation’s top tracks. The 1991 inaugural Pacific Classic was its richest race ever, featuring a $1,000,000 purse.

Image courtesy Paolo Camera

The Del Mar Experience

Since the first running of the Pacific Classic, the race has grown into a huge string of events. Designed to rival Derby Days in Kentucky, the Del Mar season includes a number of family friendly events and activities throughout the racing season. Events include charity auctions, concerts, a golf tournament and food from some of Del Mar’s top restaurants. One of the biggest draws is the Gourmet Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival, which features more than 50 of Southern California’s best food trucks and more than 50 craft beers to choose from.

The Del Margarita and the Del Martini

While the track certainly holds its own against other big races like the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, its official drink does leave a little to be desired. While the Derby has the mint julep, Del Mar has two signature drinks – the Del Margarita and the Del Martini. They may not be much different than a traditional margarita or martini, but they definitely go down smooth on a warm day at the track.

Hats Required

More than 45,000 fans are expected to attend Opening Day at Del Mar, which is one of the most fabulous and fashionable events in the west. One of Del Mar’s biggest traditions is the annual “One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest,” which judges entrants on creativity and style. The hats are judged in five categories, including Best Racing Theme and Most Outrageous. The bigger the hat, the better on Opening Day at Del Mar!

The Races

During the race season, the track holds races five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Races start early on Opening Day, at 1 p.m. on July 18. $6 general admission will get you into the track, where you can head down to the infield or pay a little extra for a clubhouse seat. During the season, Del Mar hosts nine G1 races including the Pacific Classic Stakes, the track’s premier race. Since 2008, the Pacific Class is part of the Breeder’s Cup Challenge, a series of thoroughbred races set throughout the world. On Labor Day, Del Mar hosts qualifiers for the Wienerschnitzel Wiener Nationals – a race to determine the fastest dachshund in the nation. If you’re in town, this race is a can’t miss.

Amy Moczynski is a freelance writer for, the world’s premier fantasy horse racing league.