The Coast News Group
Opening Day: Jockey Juan Hernandez sits atop Breakfast Ride, winner of the first race last Friday, Opening Day of the 2022 summer racing season at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Photo by Laura Place
Jockey Juan Hernandez sits atop Breakfast Ride, winner of the first race last Friday, Opening Day of the 2022 summer racing season at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Photo by Laura Place
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Odds & ends of Opening Day

Opening Day at the Del Mar Racetrack started for me on Wednesday officially, as the countdown to the 2022 summer racing season had been going on for months on our radio show.

Every week and every broadcast, Del Mar’s popular racing kickoff was rapidly approaching and the beat began to pulsate and stream to the excitement, events and special pre-race, opening week entertainment.

Beginning with outlining the weekend’s broadcasting and highlighting the superb racing action from Saratoga in New York, Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, and of course the 11-race card at my friends’ (Ramzey and Angela’s) new hamburger spot, Crispy Burger, in Encinitas. This gave me the fuel to open the gates.

Off to The Kraken where station owner (The Mightier 1090) Bill Hagan and his band (Keg Band) were playing at this very deep-rooted North County legendary bar and venue. Surrounded by Kaplan & Crew — Scott Kaplan, Alex Padilla, John Browner and comedian Jason Lawhead — this night was a down home classic. Add Kristina, Bridget and Rachael to the mix and you have a party.

Thursday — 1 day to go. Thursday night, L’Auberge Del Mar: Two racing partnerships / great friends (Scott Kaplan & Craig Dado) and Little Red Feather (Billy Koch & Gary Fenton) joined forces and threw a terrific meet-and-greet. Many industry leaders / owners / trainers / jockeys and racing aficionados made this a tremendous gathering under a perfect sky and night.

Friday — Opening Day — 7:30 a.m. — Joined the Good Morning San Diego KUSI -TV coverage live from the track.

The very first person I run into was none other than Kenny Mayne, former ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor and onetime quarterback at UNLV. He was filming and doing a special piece around Opening Day and horse racing. Kenny is an icon within the industry for his support and coverage of the game. He adds to the betting handle as well.

KUSI — Joined Paul Rudy and Lauren Phinney on set. What fun hosts. KUSI’s commitment and live coverage from Del Mar over the years has been monumental and a fitting tribute of connecting with the viewers on this special day.

11 a.m. — Joined Scott Kaplan and Kaplan & Crew on their radio show broadcasting from the track.

11:30 a.m. — Gates open. You can feel the vibe. Smiles on people’s faces and a beautiful day on the horizon.

2 p.m. — First race. The crowd roars as track announcer Trevor Denman gets the 2022 Del Mar season underway.

2:30 p.m. — Second race of 10 races gets off without any incidents; same goes for all 10 races and 10 winning horses and connections.

7 p.m. — Del Mar announces attendance at 21,000-plus and a record day of betting handle at $23 million.

Let the parties begin: High tech, high society and high-priced tickets.

8 p.m. — Kate Wood’s party at Rancho Valencia was the first stop. This was a savvy and cool gathering. A lot of pretty people and big-time happy guests. Celebrity faces throughout the crowd and a well-organized affair. What a beautiful setting!

10:30 p.m. — L’Auberge Del Mar was next stop. This venue exudes fun every year with a much younger crowd than at Rancho Valencia. Spread out over the entire property with a music matrix board and DJ that amplifies the pulse and energy.

Midnight — People watching in front of The Monarch (whose party was off the charts, according to my friend Steven Shankman, the infamous concert promoter from St. Louis). And Erik the Icon. Ended up outside of Jimmy O’s as the bars and restaurants closed. Just a great night all around.

The Coastal Communities were busting at the seams all day and night. Many bar and restaurant records were smashed. Some ran out of food!

Saturday morning — 8 a.m. drop-in on KUSI with Kacey McKinnon … what a jewel.

9 a.m. — Our radio show airs. What a great treat of excitement and adrenaline. Proud to be working with great guys Tommy D, Toby Turrell, Bob Hutton, Chris Cristek, aka The Kid. Plus, to air it over the Iconic Mightier 1090 with a signal reach from here to heaven. Might have been one of our top 10 broadcasts ever.

2 p.m. — 11 races and another record of records, a 50-cent Pick 5 that returned $483,000. Now that’s a jackpot!

7 p.m. — The last of 11 races run. A total of 21 in two days. Another handle of $23 million.

8 p.m. — Final stop at Chief’s Burgers and Brew with the “A” Team … bartenders Ryan O, The Cincinnati Kid, Anna, Nora, Amy, Rachel, Alexa at this classic sports bar. They never stopped until closing.

Sunday — 2 p.m.  Another 11 races to complete the three-day weekend. The third day in a row where we saw 30-to-1 long shots win races and pay handsomely.

6 p.m. — Boxing champ Canelo Alvarez, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe, makes an appearance at Del Mar under a ton of security and close guarding. He might have even stopped at the betting window as the weekend comes to a close.

Final grades:

Bartenders, servers, ushers, security: AAA+

Racing: A+

People: A

Safety: A+

Community support: A+

Betting: A+

All the rest were B’s

See you on the radio, Saturdays 9 a.m. over The Mightier 1090 ESPN Radio.