The Coast News Group

Del Mar racing fans used to go to church on Sundays

DEL MAR — The race track will be dark on Mondays pending an OK from the California Horse Racing Board and it’s a 6-5 bet that it will do so.
In its earlier seasons, Del Mar did not race on Sundays.
As a matter of fact, there was no horse racing on the Sabbath in the Golden State.
It was the day for fans to go to church.
Well, some did.
On Saturday nights there was dancing and partying at the track until the early hours. Winners, as well as the losers, celebrated.
Nevertheless, Pat O’Brien, whose family summered at their seaside home, almost always managed to make it to the 10 o’clock mass at St. James Church, which is now the library.
He was one of the altar boys serving Monsignor Ernest LeGuyader. When it was time to go down the aisle with the collection basket, Pat also took over that responsibility.
He was a super fundraiser.
As one of the track’s vice presidents, he knew the Saturday afternoon winners — horse owners, jockeys and bettors.
He would stand in front of those present and shake the basket until he had extracted a fair share of their winnings for St. James. Sometimes more.
Jimmy Durante and Desi Arnaz didn’t make the Sunday masses.
However, if there was fiesta in Eden Gardens, they could be counted on to provide some of the entertainment.
The era ended when Sundays were added to the racing calendar.