Del Mar racing season Opening Day activities set for July 22

Participants at last year’s Opening Day Hat Contest event.
Participants at last year’s Opening Day Hat Contest event.
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar’s Opening Day will be celebrated from the seaside to the “countryside” on July 22.

Pre-parties and after parties will bookend the main event at the track, all of them sure to feature elegant hats, brightly colored silks, flowing cocktails and racing excitement.

The anticipation is so high this year that general admission and most seats at the track sold out early. The crowd size is being capped at around “twentysomething thousand” to make it a more enjoyable experience for attendees, said Chris Bahr, Del Mar’s director of events and promotions.

“We got great feedback from all the fans and horseman” after the 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships in November, which had a similar cap, Bahr explained. “Everyone loved it - they could get around the facility (easier).”

As of July 10, there were still some tickets available through Volo Sports. The $150 cost includes a pre-party at one of three locations (Union Kitchen & Tap in Encinitas or downtown San Diego, or Backyard Kitchen & Tap in Pacific Beach); a “fully stocked bus ride” to the racetrack; VIP entrance and party at the races; and the bus ride back to the pre-party site. Go to

Another option for admission is through a new event called The Grand, where a Patrón master mixologist will be serving up extravagant margaritas garnished with 23k gold flakes in pewter chalices on the Tahona Terrace as part of the $1,000 price. In addition, there will be a complimentary buffet and hosted bar, and Turf Club and valet parking are also included. A portion of the proceeds benefits California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), dedicated to rehabilitation, retraining and retirement of racehorses in California. Go to

There will be plenty to see and do inside the racetrack’s gates - even with the cap, “we still expect Opening Day to be as festive as ever,” Bahr said. Skydivers will drop in during the early afternoon, and first post will be at 2 p.m. After the post parade for the fifth race, the crowd will hear the familiar tune of “Where the Turf Meets the Surf” during Sing With Bing. Per tradition, the featured race on the card will be the $100,000 Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf.

Until 3 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico, racegoers may enter the annual Hat Contest, where more than $4,000 in prizes will be awarded. The grand prize - valued at $1,500 - is a night’s stay and a meal for two at the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, plus a $500 package from Studio Savvy. Categories are Best Racing Theme, Most Glamorous, Best Fascinator and Best Flowers, and winners will be announced after the sixth race.

The merriment will continue well into the evening with events in various offsite locations.

One is the After Pony Party, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Rancho Valencia, 5921 Valencia Circle in Rancho Santa Fe. A buffet, welcome cocktail, cash bar and dancing, with music by DJ Irie, are part of the $300 general admission. Tickets can be purchased through

Also, L’Auberge Del Mar, at 1540 Camino del Mar, will host a post-race bash from 5 p.m. to midnight. The $300 cost includes live music spun by a DJ, dancing and “bites” in an ocean-view setting. Call (858) 386-1336 or go to