Del Mar’s 84th racing season returns with a wide variety of events

The horses round the first turn on Del Mar's turf course at a previous season race.
The horses round the first turn on Del Mar’s turf course at a previous season race.
(Kelley Carlson)

Del Mar racetrack’s 84th season promises to be another “Classic” one, from the marquee race to a smorgasbord of food-and-beverage events.

Action at the seaside oval will begin July 21 and continue through Sept. 10, featuring 39 stakes races worth a total of $8.275 million. The Grade I, $1 million FanDuel Racing Pacific Classic on Sept. 2 tops the list, and is one of six “Win & You’re In” tests that guarantees a horse’s spot in the starting gate at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 3-4 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

“We’ve got a stakes schedule that mirrors our record program of last year,” said Del Mar’s vice president and racing secretary, David Jerkens. “We made a couple of very minor tweaks, but otherwise it’s the same offerings at the same value that our horsemen and women found especially pleasing last year.”

Pacific Classic Day will also feature the most stakes races in one afternoon - five total - along with the first giveaway in several years. A “Flightline” baseball cap - which honors the champion who ran away with last year’s edition by 19 1/4 lengths - will be given to the first 10,000 fans, with paid admission. Handicappers can also test their skills in the Pacific Classic Betting Challenge (PCBC), with winners receiving cash prizes, 2023 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge entries and National Horseplayer Championship (NHC) seats.

The jockeys enter the Del Mar paddock to mount the horses for the next race.
The jockeys enter the Del Mar paddock to mount the horses for the next race.
(Kelley Carlson)

Sept. 2 is just one day out of a full summer calendar of activities, with something for everyone and every age, said Chris Bahr, Del Mar’s director of events and promotions.

In particular, “we are absolutely loaded with lifestyle food-and-beverage events,” he said, with five major ones on the schedule.

They are:

Beer Festival, 1 to 5 p.m. July 22: More than 50 brews, ciders and seltzers will be on tap, which can be paired with gourmet foods that are sold separately.

Taste of New Orleans, 1 to 6 p.m. Aug. 5: Cuisine, drinks and music from Cajun Country will be highlighted. There will also be bead vendors, a mini parade and more.

Tickets for both the Beer Festival and Taste of New Orleans - available for ages 21 and older only - are $35, and will go up closer to the events.

Turf & Surf BBQ, 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 12: Guests can mix-and-match a medley of barbecue meats with sides and desserts. Costs range from $30 to $65; children 5 and younger receive free admission.

Uncorked Wine Festival, 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 19: Patrons can sample from more than 100 varieties. Tickets are $65, or $80 for those who desire early entry at 1 p.m. Admission for nondrinkers is $25. A portion of the sales from each ticket will benefit Urban Surf 4 Kids, a local nonprofit organization that helps at-risk and foster children through water and surf therapy.

Tacos & Tequila Festival, 2 to 5 p.m. Aug. 26: There will be specialty tequilas, cervezas and margaritas to pair with the traditional Mexican fare. The event is for ages 21 and older and costs $45, or $59 for early admission at 1 p.m.

All of the food-and-beverage events are ticketed, and include admission to the track, racing program and a tip sheet. The tickets can be purchased at, and some events have admission caps, Bahr noted.

There are also fine dining experiences in the Turf Club on Fridays and Sundays; tickets are $125 and can be bought via the track’s website.

Del Mar's mascot, Pony Boy, mingles with the crowd and poses for pictures.
Del Mar’s mascot, Pony Boy, mingles with the crowd and poses for pictures.
(Kelley Carlson)

Family-friendly festivities

After a several-year hiatus, Donuts Day is back, and is slated from 8 to 10 a.m. Aug. 6. Everyone can enjoy free treats, watch the morning workouts, and listen to question-and-answer sessions with jockeys and trainers. Del Mar’s mascot, Pony Boy, will make the rounds, and there will be entertainers, face painting and prizes for the kids.

“We’re happy to have this back for the families,” Bahr said.

Family Fun Day, which will be from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sept. 3, will have some of the same activities for the younger crowd, along with rock climbing walls, bungee trampolines, food trucks and a game zone.

‘Diamond’ benefits

Once again, Del Mar will offer its free Diamond Club membership, which provides admission discounts and other perks. Every Thursday is “Free & Easy” for members - they receive Stretch Run admission, a program and a seat at no cost, along with 40 percent off of 16-ounce Coors Lights, sodas and Brandt Beef hot dogs. Also, on Fridays (starting July 28), members receive half-off prices on all of the track’s signature drinks during Happy Hour, which starts when the gates open and lasts until 5 p.m.

Signups can be completed through the Del Mar mobile app or at the booth outside of the Stretch Run gate entrance.

Insider info

Racegoers have a number of ways to pick up free tips on racing and handicapping. Newcomers Seminars will be held an hour before the first race on Thursdays in the Plaza de Mexico, and cover the basics for those who are new to the sport. Early risers can gain insight from broadcaster and horsewoman Michelle Yu while watching morning workouts from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the track. Veteran handicapper Frank Scatoni will host the online “Best Bet” handicapping seminar at 11 a.m. Sundays, which streams on Del Mar’s YouTube channel. Finally, Weekend Handicapping Seminars will be held at 1:05 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in the Plaza de Mexico, and reveal expert selections for the day’s card.

‘Challenge’ accepted

Del Mar will host several “challenges” for horseplayers who want to test their handicapping skills against others. One is the PCBC on Sept. 2, which has a $4,000 buy-in, with $3,000 designated as live bankroll and $1,000 going toward the prize pool.

The on-track Del Mar Handicapping Challenge spans the weekend of July 29-30, which has a $6,000 buy-in ($4,000 for the live bankroll and $2,000 for the prize pool). There are $250,000 in prizes expected, which include cash and entries to the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (BCBC), 2023 PCBC and 2024 NHC.

In addition, there is a Charity Challenge on Aug. 13 that benefits LRF Cares, which helps provide homes or second careers for retired thoroughbred racehorses. It has a $600 buy-in, with $300 going toward the live bankroll and $300 for the prize pool and charity donation. Prizes are cash and entries to the BCBC, PCBC and NHC. Contact Renee Parcell at for registration questions.

For all handicapping contest questions, contact Bahr at

Sundays for seniors

There will be two Seniors’ Days at the track this summer - Aug. 6 and 27. All seniors ages 62 and older will receive free Stretch Run admission, a racing program and a seat when they present a valid ID at designated Stretch Run admission gates.

Wrapping it up

The final Saturday of the meet - Sept. 9 - will be College Day, held on the 3rd floor of the Stretch Run side of the grandstand. Students will receive free racetrack admission with a valid school ID.

Closing Day, on Sept. 10, will be headlined by the Grade I, $300,000 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity for 2-year-olds, and there will be mandatory payouts for all wagers. There will also be a Red Cross blood drive from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Hacienda Room. Go to to register in advance and receive free admission.

“Last year, we set a record with field sizes - we’re expecting fantastic racing again this season,” Bahr said.

Del Mar racetrack 2023 season

• Dates: July 21-Sept. 10

• Location: Via de la Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard

• Post time: Opening Day (July 21)-2 p.m.; Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays-2 p.m. July 22-Aug. 31, 1:30 p.m. Sept 2-10; Fridays-4 p.m. July 28-Aug. 11, 3:30 p.m. Aug. 18 & Aug. 25, 3 p.m. Sept. 1 & 8; Labor Day (Sept. 4)-1:30 p.m.

• General Admission: Daily-$8, Diamond Club-$4, Opening Day-SOLD OUT; free for 17 and younger and active military

Parking: General-$10, Preferred-$20, Valet-$30

Information: (858) 755-1141,