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11 Things You Didn’t Know About the Del Mar Racetrack

Celebrate the track with fun facts about its 80 hat-filled years of history


Photo courtesy of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club

We all know the turf meets the surf at Del Mar—sing it with us! But did you know the famous racetrack is celebrating its 80th season this year? As we trot into opening day on July 17, impress your friends with factoids about the iconic oval.


1. Robert Kardashian and Kris Jenner first met at the track.

In 1973, 17-year-old Kris crossed paths with 28-year-old Robert, forever changing the history of lip kits and reality TV.


2. The $25,000 winner-take-all prize of the event that put Del Mar on the map—a storied 1938 race between Seabiscuit and Ligaroti—now equates to some $445,000.

Seabiscuit bested Ligaroti by a snout.


3. The nation's only seaside racetrack was founded by crooner Bing Crosby.

Cue Crosby’s “Where the Turf Meets the Surf.”


4. Del Mar became the leading track in the country in 1989.

It saw an average of more than $7 million a day, according to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club—more than $15 million in 2019 dollars.


5. The rarefied environs of the track have served as an aesthetically pleasing set for many TV shows.

None other than The Bachelor, Entourage, Little People, Housewives of Orange County, and—look who made their way back to Del Mar—Keeping Up with the Kardashians.


6. The track went from real dirt to synthetic dirt to real dirt again.

In 2007, synthetic racing surface Polytrack was installed to help reduce injuries to horses and jockeys. However, dirt made its comeback eight years later after a debate over the effectiveness of the controversial synthetic material.


7. CEO Joe Harper received the thoroughbred industry’s highest honor, the Eclipse Award of Merit, this past January.

He won for his outstanding lifelong achievement and contributions to the field. “It’s got my name on it, but it’s got Del Mar’s soul in it,” he said in his speech.


8. The track took on a new slogan in the 2000s: “Cool as Ever.”

As the Instagram Era scrolls on, Del Mar is becoming less about the horses and more about the social scene, fashion, and of course, that photo finish for your feed.


9. With new types of bets added last season, there are now 17 ways to wager.

When you’re thinking of wagering in the classic Win, Place, Show routine, try the recently-added early Pick Four or late Pick Five bets.


10. The annual Opening Day Hat Contest has five categories, and a Michelin-starred grand prize.

Categories include Best Racing Theme, Most Glamorous, Most Outrageous, Best Fascinator, and Best Flowers. The grand prize winner earns a one-night stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar with a dinner for two at Michelin-starred Addison.


11. Opening day averages more than 40,000 attendees each year.

Grab your flowery hats and cigars, folks! This year’s extravaganza is only a few strides or—excuse us—furlongs away.

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