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Track Stars

Meet the horsepower behind the DMTC



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As told to Ann Wycoff | Photos by Luis Garcia and the Hendershotts

Joe Harper

Joe Harper - Del Mar Racetrack President & CEO

Years on the job: Over 35

A day in the life: When we are operating at Del Mar, it’s like having a big party. I make sure the joint is clean and everybody is doing what they are supposed to be doing. My day starts at 4:30 a.m., when we open for training. We have 1,600 head of horses over on the back side, so I am dealing with the trainers and owners, putting out fires, and smiling and shaking hands. Then I dust myself off to open the gates at 2 p.m. I’m never in the office.

Proudest moment: When we were first able to have a million-dollar race, which is now our signature, called the $1 Million Pacific Classic. John Mabee, one of the biggest thoroughbred breeders in the country, kept pushing for it and we finally did enough business to put that much money into a purse in 1991. And lo and behold, guess who won the first one? John Mabee, with a horse called Best Pal. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer man. We’ve done that race ever since.

Hot tip: Take the free Handicapping Seminar that we offer daily, especially if you are a newcomer—it explains how to bet.

Earliest track memory: My mom bred and raced horses in California after the war. I recall all three tracks, but mostly Del Mar, since I got to go to the beach. I remember sitting on an uncomfortable rattan chair in short pants, watching one of my mother’s horses run in the late ‘40s. J. Edgar Hoover was in the stands and Bing Crosby too.

Chantal Sutherland - Jockey

Years racing: 13

Best moment at Del Mar: I won Opening Day my first week ever racing at Del Mar. The crowd roared like crazy. It was so awesome.

Most powerful body part: My shoulders are strong, but my big toe is the thing that hooks onto my stirrup and holds me up. And that’s what I balance on.

What most people don’t know about race horses: They have handlers 24/7, wear $300 shoes, and have chiropractors, acupuncturists, and some, like Sunnyside, who won the Kentucky Derby, even have psychiatrists.

On HBO’s Luck: It was so cool to meet Nick Nolte and Dustin Hoffman, and fun to learn how to act. I was disappointed when it got cancelled, but honestly, I needed some time off. I hadn’t had a day off in a long time and those hours on the set are grueling. My regular job is already crazy demanding.

On smelling victory: There’s a gut feeling. It’s a sense of horse—how well they are handling the race and how easily they are doing it—that gives a good indication. Also, you see signs from other jockeys. When a horse is tired, the jockey’s bum will start to move, which means they are running out of horse.

On her nude Vanity Fair photo shoot: It was photographer Bo Derek’s idea. She promised it was going to be artistic and I think she pulled it off. I am proud of it.

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