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Kris Chandler and Janet Stannard of Rancho Santa Fe, Carol Piecsonka of Carlsbad and Rancho Santa Fe resident Gina Jordan don their best hats for opening day. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Fall race meet again a fashionable opening

DEL MAR — The second annual Bing Crosby Season at the Del Mar Racetrack kicked off in high-fashion, low-key form, with attendance at 6,144, roughly half the number of people who attended last year’s inaugural opening day.

C.P. McBride, director of media relations for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, said this is the first year Del Mar hosted a race meet during the Breeders’ Cup, which was held Oct. 30 and 31. The local track agreed to alternate years with Santa Anita.

“We were hopeful that would be an event in itself,” McBride said. “As it turns out it really doesn’t seem that way.

“The Breeders’ Cup is a TV event for an awful lot of people,” he added. “They realized they don’t need to get in their cars, pay for gas and pay for parking to watch it on TV here because that’s what they’re going to do at home.

“So the numbers weren’t as high as we hoped,” McBride said. “Now we’ll go back into the mode of self-promotion rather than hoping the Breeders’ Cup will carry us.”

The numbers were much better on the money side, with Del Mar handling $18.4 million on Oct. 31, about $1 million less than it did the day of the Pacific Classic during the summer meet.

“That’s extraordinary,” Mc Bride said. “It’s huge. The Breeders’ Cup is a big horse event. But it appears people would rather stay home than come to the track and be part of that environment. So we take the good with the bad.”

McBride said Santa Anita experienced similar opening day numbers as the California host for the Breeders’ Cup last year.

The Oct. 29 opener at Del Mar once again attracted about 100 entrants in a Vintage Hollywood Fashion Contest that offered more than $3,000 in prizes in three categories — most glamorous, best-dressed couple or debonair man and best celebrity look-alike or famous movie character.

Dressed as Lauren Bacall, Lynn Wheeler of Rancho Santa Fe won first place and the Bing Crosby grand prize, a two-night getaway at L’Auberge Del Mar that includes dinner at Kitchen 1540 and breakfast at Coastline, the seaside hotel’s two restaurants.

First-, second- and third-place contestants received $300, $200 and $100, respectively, in each category.

Lori Shelton as Audrey Hepburn and Sarah Miller as Lucille Ball took second and third place as celebrity look-alikes. The most glamorous prize winners were Erin Howell and McKenna Harchol of San Diego and Cristina Briseno of Long Beach.

In the best-dressed couple category, Bob Ellis and Jenny Stoff of Carlsbad and Jeffrey Cobes and Lori Sovacchio of Upland were first- and second-place winners, respectively. Jonny Gagnon took third as the best-dressed debonair man.

The contest was coordinated by Deena Von Yokes of Studio Savvy Salon in Rancho Santa Fe and Joe Cuviello of the Cuviello Agency in Solana Beach.

Other attendees included race fans of all ages. Kalil, 5, and his sister Tiegan, 4, Mishalanie and their parents walked to the track from their Solana Beach home. They were on the phone earlier in the day getting tips from their grandfather and great-grandfather in Florida.

Billy Hardy of Vista took along his 18-month-old daughter, Jolene, who he said gave him a tip on Doyouknowsomething, the winning horse in the first race ridden by Felipe Valdez.

Del Mar added the Bing Crosby Season — named for the actor who cofounded the iconic seaside track in 1937 — following the closure of Hollywood Park.

Before that the only other fall meet at the state-owned venue was in 1967, when opening day drew a crowd of 3,909.

By comparison, opening day of Del Mar’s summer race meet generally attracts about 47,000 people.

Last year’s fall meet began on the first Friday in November and featured 15 days of racing. Bing II, as it is being called, kicked off on the last Thursday of October and will include 20 race days.

Racing will continue Thursdays through Sundays through Nov. 29. Gates open at 11 a.m., with the first post at 12:30 p.m. every day except Nov. 26. Gates open that day, which is Thanksgiving, at 9:30 a.m., with the first race at 11 a.m.

Every Sunday attendees will receive a free stretch run admission and program, as well as half-price domestic draft beer, regular soda and hot dogs at Stretch Run concession stands.