The Coast News Group
Opening Day at the seaside oval in Del Mar
Opening Day at the seaside oval in Del Mar. Photo by Bill Slane
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Inside Information: Reflections on Opening Weekend at Del Mar Racetrack

32 Races … Opening weekend at the Del Mar Racetrack saw 23 trainers take a photo in the winner’s circle and 17  jockeys pose for a picture.

Track announcer Trevor Denman was back after a year off and better than ever.

The town was buzzing … Thursday night, the night before “Horse Christmas” brought out the Who’s Who of the racing community. The restaurants were jammed-packed with full houses of guests. As the hours elapsed towards countdown to 2 p.m. Friday, the pace quickened with happy faces, more drinks and full stomachs.

Legendary concert promoter Steven Schankman, whose 50-plus year career of promoting top-shelf rock concerts (The Rolling Stones, Elton John, U2, Fleetwood Mac) was holding court at Sbicca in Del Mar.

Opening Day!

Friday, July 16 — The day began early and with much more eager anticipation than years past, especially with no fans during the 2020 summer and fall meetings. The weather was perfect. The people were bright and on the muscle. A record total of $21 million we’re handled on the 10 race card.

The track was manicured beautifully and the people followed suit. Gates opened at 12 p.m. and fans were lined up a good 90 minutes prior to opening the latch. The special feel and buzz could be felt from the get-go.

Simply put, there is nothing better than Opening Day at Del Mar. So many happy faces, long-lost friends and acquaintances ready to be met once again and Del Mar 2021 was pumping adrenaline.

Special thanks to KUSI for three decades of covering Opening Day at Del Mar on their Good Morning San Diego News (5-10 a.m.) No other track in the country can make that claim. And no other city is San Diego!🏆

Scott Kaplan, of Kaplan & Crew, broadcasting from the track for his afternoon radio show over the Mightier 1090 AM;

Frank Scatoni doing his seminars and teachings at the seaside oval and releasing his info and picks with Turf Handicapper Frank Tate;

Darren Smith followed suit and delivered knock-out broadcasts on XTRA 1360 AM;

TVG with outstanding wire-to-wire coverage and international and national exposure from Del Mar.

Biggest star or stars in attendance: (tie) Former heavyweight boxing champion “Iron” Mike Tyson and former San Diego Chargers tight end (and future Hall of Famer) Antonio Gates. Plus the many beautiful men and women who made up the day.

Solana Beach Junior Little League (13 and 14-year-olds) won both of their regional playoff games and advance! This team is very well managed and community-supported.

Faces in the Crowd:  
Tom Quigley: Santa Anita Inter Track TV Host
Hunter Jaurgui: Son of Horse Racing Steward Luis Jaurgui; 12-year-old wrestling champion and heading to the Nationals;
T. Pat Stubbs and wife, Marty Jo: Both sons Garrett (on the MLB roster) and CJ are in the Houston Astros organization and living the dream;
Julie & Brad Evarts: Owners of Alce 101 in Solana Beach;
Kathleen and Bob Verratti: Philadelphia horse owners who flew in and won enough to buy a plane;
Johnny E: Mr. Las Vegas

Cash is King unless you’re in the hot dog or sandwich line. No cash accepted, just a credit card, which is pretty lame and stupid, prompting one bettor to ask if he could place a bet with his credit card.

Best of the Best
America’s Finest City: San Diego
Best Party: Monarch (Hands down!)
Best Restaurant Action & Vibe: Alce 101, Sbicca and Villaggio Ristorante
Best Performance: Ginobili, a 4-year-old colt;
Best Jockey: Northern California Jockey Kyle Frey $35 and $27 winners first and last race on Saturday!
Best Service: Veranda Cafe at Del Mar Racetrack. Great Job by Ricardo, Aldo and the women who worked hard masterfully handling a big room.
Best Trainer: Richard Baltas & Victor Garcia (tie)
Best Feeling of The Day: Being American 🇺🇸
Best Radio Show: Race & Sports Radio Saturday’s 9 a.m. on The Mightier 1090 AM with Tommy D, Toby Turrell, Larry Zap and Nick Hines
Best Racing Executive: Craig Dado, VP of Marketing, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Best Coffee: Bump Coffee in Cardiff-by-the-Sea
Best Smile and Customer Service: Anna, from Chiefs Burgers and Brew.
Best News: The Belly-Up Tavern is open!
Best MPG ( minutes per guests and PR ) Joe Harper, the 78-year-old chairman of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, was seen everywhere with a walkie-talkie in one hand and shaking hands with the other.
Best News Coverage: The Coast News
Best Overall Job: Tom Robbins, VP of Racing, and Racing Secretary David Jerkens carding three days of great competitive racing.
Best Bet of the Day: A patron mistakingly bet a $20 superfecta, picking the first four finishers in the race and the teller mistakenly gave him the Pick 4 (picking the winners in four straight races). The teller’s miscue afforded the bettor to make $87,000 on the race. $20 dollars for $87 large…nice mistake!

Horses to Watch For $$$ (During the Summer Meet):

See you next week!

Contact Felix at [email protected]