Race of the Week 2017

HRN Original Blog:
Zipse At The Track

This is why I love Del Mar

As a kid growing up, I was lucky enough to call Saratoga one of my family’s regular vacation destinations. Many an August week in the seventies and into the eighties we spent hunkered down at an idyllic little spot called Lake Paradise. Less than an half an hour’s drive from Saratoga, it could not have been a better place for a racehorse loving family to spend part of their summer. It was truly a slice of heaven on earth for a very young Zipse at the Track. Unfortunately, Lake Paradise is no longer, and my days at Saratoga are less now than they used to be. Luckily, our nation is full of great racetracks to enjoy. Nowadays, I get to spend many of my racetrack getaways with my wife, Candice, and my daughter, Kendra. They have already visited more racing venues than Candice could have ever dreamed about before we met. Few of these places can quite stack up to Saratoga, though. Perhaps there are only a couple that can rival the Spa for the combination of quality racing with the total fan experience. I am happy to say, for my family and I, one such place is Del Mar.

While the grandeur of Saratoga was reality for me in the early years, the wonderful mystery of Del Mar was more like the great white whale. I knew it was out there, but it seemed like a place I might never find. As you can imagine, the build-up in my mind was pretty fantastic. I was 22-years-old, when I decided to go on the ultimate solo road trip. It was just me, my old Dodge Daytona, a few summer weeks to kill, and a dream to find the new Saratoga. I traveled through the endless plains; saw a little snow in the Rockies, and made it through 125 degrees in the Las Vegas sun. I finally made it to “Where The Turf Meets The Surf” for the first time in the summer of 1991. With these kind of unreasonable expectations, Del Mar was sure to fall short. It did not.

Bing Crosby really knew what he was doing when he founded the seaside track back in 1937. When it all began, Bing collected tickets at the turnstile to get the place going. Crosby and his Hollywood pals created Del Mar as the ultimate summer place to hang out, have fun, and watch great racing. Those simple goals are as true now as ever, and that is exactly what my family and I found last summer.

Let’s face it, while most of the country suffers the heat and humidity of the dog days of summer, Suburban San Diego is an ocean oasis. The greatest summer climate in America runs from the city right up the coast through the doors of Del Mar. A cool Pacific breeze welcomes all past the picturesque paddock, through a historic grandstand, and into a lively and entertaining infield. What is it about tracks that allow fans into the infield that I enjoy so much? If your mind strays away from the business at hand, all the wonderful horses that run at Del Mar every Wednesday through Sunday, it is an easy place just to have a good time with other fun loving fans and the Pacific Ocean just across the street.

If you’ve already done the math, you know that this is Del Mar’s Diamond Anniversary. Embarking on year number 75, the good folks at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club intend to make the most of a milestone summer. The meeting begins this Wednesday and will continue through September 5, including a special race day on the Monday of Labor Day weekend. Seven grade I races will highlight the meet including this Saturday’s Eddie Read Stakes and the meet’s cornerstone event, the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on Sunday, August 26. Last year, you might remember the Eclipse Award winning Caifornia-bred, Acclamation completed an unprecedented sweep of the two big races. The now 6-year-old California-bred, honored with an Eclipse Award in the Older Male division for last year’s accomplishments is back with one win under his belt in 2012, and ready to try to match the feat again this year. 

Adding to the unique experience that is Del Mar, will be Friday night post-race concerts, with such performers as Ben Harper and Ziggy Marley. And if you are still worried that all this, the horses, and sipping cocktails and eating the best fish tacos in the world are not enough to entice the family, remember the world class city of San Diego is less than a half hour drive away. Last summer when we weren’t at the track, or eating fantastic food, my family and I enjoyed daytrips to Sea World and Coronado Island. I still have not made it to Torrey Pines for one of the most scenic days of golf in my life, but that is also just minutes away, and will happen for me sooner than later.

If you’ve never been to Del Mar yet, I urge you to not wait too much longer to get there. It is truly worth the trip. And if you are thinking about going this year, again don’t wait too long, because it only lasts for 37 days, starting with a Wednesday card that features two divisions of the Oceanside Stakes. And then it is gone again, just like that great white whale.


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Older Comments about This is why I love Del Mar...

get em there to party and not to wager means long term handle decreases, Brilliant. I thought they knew better than this
I was working at PrimmValley for about 5 yrs, '03 - '08, and I went to a Reggae concert the last weekend in august '04 and '05. Iliked going to DelMar the last weekend in August because it was festive and a party. Great barbecue sandwichs, beer tents, great music, weed everywhere - people would just light one up and pass it on around into the crowd, that was GREAT! Even if you hadnt toked for several years and kind of grew away from it - you were bound to get into the spirit of being 22 again at that festival. The crowd was abuzz but mellow-chillin. Everybody had a rythm in sync. The colors at DelMar just seem to explode in front of you there. The horses on the stretce in front of the stands seem like they're so much closer than at other tracks. DelMar is really special!
Not even close ... Attendance was three times as many as in '72, and double what it was in '82.
I have been to both Holly and Anita when crowds tipped 80,000
Opening day has always been attended to that degree since I went there first in the early 70's
It's official ... racing is dead. There were only 47,339 fans at Del Mar on Wednesday, opening day. *wink*
Only problem with Del Mar is the heat...IT can broil you.
Totally enjoyed my first trip there last year. Class all the way around. Glad I got to experience it.
Anita is the jewel of the West coast by far. Been to every track in Calif except Fresno.
I've been to Del Mar 2 consecutive years from the East Coast and it is, by far the best track in America! We've been to Woodbine, Keeneland, Tampa and a ton of others but I will always go to Del Mar as my 1st choice
We will never be too old to go tracking, (drive or no drive) Matt!
Hey Brian, please let me know the next time you make a road trip to Del Mar or are we too old for that?
I Love Del Mar better than any track I have ever been to, The weather, the track, the atmosphere, the food...yup , you hit the nail on the head here <3

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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as co-hosting the popular racing show, HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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