The Coast News Group

Harness horse industry was important to village

DEL MAR — In the early 1960s, villagers held a communitywide beach party to celebrate that the race trackers and tourist had gone elsewhere and things were quiet again.
On the other hand merchants counted their revenue and hoped there was enough left in the till to carry them through the lean winter months.
The president of the Chamber of Commerce, Doc Wheelock, saw a solution to the doldrums by convincing Western Harness Racing Association to establish winter quarters at the track. After a lot of talking and off the record dinner negotiations the chamber succeeded and it meant more than 500 harness racing horsemen would be living in and around the village from November through March when racing started again.
Ever alert to making money for a charity, Wheelock convinced the association to present an afternoon of “tune up” races with proceeds going to the cancer chapter based at Scripps hospital in La Jolla.
The event attracted thousands of visitors. Harness horses, some 750 head, continued to quarter at the track for several years until the sport waned. However, some residents living in the village and in Rancho Santa Fe have their beginnings rooted in the industry.