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Vintage San Diego: Seabiscuit on the Stretch Run

Del Mar Racetrack, August 12, 1938


Photo courtesy of San Diego History Center

Before the 1938 match race between thoroughbreds Seabiscuit (Horse “A” in photo) and Ligaroti, the Del Mar Racetrack was still in its infancy. Established the previous year, the venue served as celebrity entertainer Bing Crosby’s personal project. The match garnered much interest, drawing a record-breaking crowd of 20,000 spectators and making history as the first race announced live and nationwide by NBC Radio. The race, replete with jockey fouls on both sides, was a nail-biter; after yielding his initial lead, Seabiscuit recovered and won the close contest by a long mahogany nose. Following the event, Seabiscuit would achieve unparalleled victory in the historic “Match of the Century” against War Admiral at Pimlico in Maryland. 

Crosby’s Del Mar racetrack, of course, has enjoyed long-lasting success. A luxury viewing suite is named after the champion horse, whose legendary race is credited with putting Del Mar on the map. 

By the Numbers

1937 - Wearing a white hat, the first woman to enter the racetrack gates heralds the annual hat contest

1938 - Bing Crosby co-writes racetrack anthem “Where the Turf Meets the Surf”

$437,730 - Seabiscuit’s career earnings (nearly $6 million in today’s dollars)

47,339 - Attendance at the track’s 75th anniversary opening day, in 2012

16,500 - Average daily racetrack attendance in 2014

2017 - Del Mar will host the Breeders’ Cup for the first time (fall season)

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