DEL MAR — A buzz of activity returned to the new-and-improved Del Mar Horsepark last week as it reopened for the Del Mar Sunshine Classic, the first show at the iconic park in nearly four years.
The five-day show from July 12 to 16 kicked off the park’s first regular summer season since 2020, following a multimillion-dollar renovation overseen by new operator Horse Shows in the Sun, or HITS.
Folks in both the local and national equestrian scene alike have been chomping at the bit to get back in the arena after the cancelation of the 2020 summer season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent discontinuation of all equestrian activities in early 2021 due to water maintenance issues.
Since taking over the park in 2022, HITS has implemented not only a new water drainage system but state-of-the-art footing in the show arenas, larger stalls, new VIP seating, a new cafe and restaurant, and updated restrooms.
“It was a long process, but definitely worth the wait. I think everyone is so excited to be back here in Del Mar. This is one of our favorite facilities, so the riders are really excited to finally be back,” said Del Mar Horsepark general manager Dale Harvey.
In addition to the daily hunter and show jumping competitions for various ages and experience levels, the Sunshine Classic included a $25,000 Welcome Classic on July 13 and a $100,000 Sunshine Grand Prix on July 15.
Show jumper Guillermo Obligabo of Rancho Santa Fe said he had been riding at the park for over 20 years when it closed and was pleased to be back.
“It’s always been a good place for the community to be able to show at home. This is one of the best last fields in the West Coast, so having this place back is unbelievable,” Obligabo said.
Olympic show jumper Cassio Rivetti, who operates Cassio Rivetti Stables in Rancho Santa Fe and also competed at the Sunshine Classic, said the new footing technology is what really makes the new park stand out as a premier showing destination.
“Everything is safer for the horses. Our horses can’t ride on bad footing. They give us the best conditions that we expect for five-star-level shows,” Rivetti said. “It’s really important for us to have a place like that.”
The horses’ comfort extends beyond the arena and into their stalls, which have been widened and outfitted with rubberized floor mats and new doors.
While there are still improvements to be made at the park, such as the revamping of the covered arena set to begin later this fall, riders said the Sunshine Classic is a sign of good things to come.
“As a first show, it looks really good,” Rivetti said.
In further celebration of the park’s opening, HITS also planned a mural painting event on July 15 led by internationally-renowned artist and sculptor Jerome Gastaldi, giving visitors the chance to contribute to a colorful piece of art at the park.
Upcoming shows in the Del Mar Summer Series include the Del Mar Summer Festival on Aug. 2-6 (premier) and Aug. 9-13 (national) and the Del Mar Summer Classic on Aug. 23-27 (premier) and Aug. 30 to Sept. 3 (national.)
Following the summer season, the horse park will host seven additional shows between September and October.
For more information and a full schedule of shows, visit hitsdelmar.com.