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Resurrecting Vintage Hollywood at the Racetrack

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, which usually operates in the summer, opened its gates in early November for Bing Crosby Season.

Jonathan Murrietta

Horses+break+from+the+starting+gate+at+Del+Mar.+
Horses break from the starting gate at Del Mar.

Horses break from the starting gate at Del Mar.

Jonathan Murrietta

Jonathan Murrietta

Horses break from the starting gate at Del Mar.

Jonathan Murrietta, Contributing Writer

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The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in San Diego, Calif. opened its gates in the fall for the first time in its history last Friday.

The racetrack that used to exclusively operate in the summer hosted its inaugural Bing Crosby Season to fill a void left by the closing of another historic Southern California racetrack, Hollywood Park.

Bing Crosby greeted fans at the gates when his coastal Del Mar Racetrack first opened in 1937, and 77 years later, the first three days of the new fall meet at Del Mar yielded crowds totaling more than 29,000—much larger attendances than the dwindling Hollywood Park saw in its last days. Fans in attendance on opening day came to Del Mar dressed as their favorite classic Hollywood celebrity to commemorate the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Chapman University senior and racing enthusiast Matt Dinerman had a blast this weekend at Del Mar and expects the racetrack to continue its success in the fall.

“It’s beautiful [at Del Mar]; there’s not a cloud in the sky, a lot of beautiful people just like the summer time, and it’s really lively,” Dinerman said. “It’s a new meet, but it’s going to I think be very successful because I think a lot of people want to come down to Del Mar, [especially] a lot of young people, and I think it’s a good place to be.”

The horse racing was at the center of it all this weekend at Del Mar. The new fall meet is continuing Hollywood Park’s autumn turf festival with its own twist. Many of the stakes races during “Bing Season” at Del Mar have been changed to be named after classic Hollywood celebrities, who were regulars at the racetrack decades ago.

Last Friday’s feature race was the Kathryn Crosby Stakes, a one-mile turf race named after Bing Crosby’s wife. Number two, Queen of the Sand, won the race under veteran jockey Mike Smith.

Del Mar’s new turf course became the subject of much controversy over the summer after multiple horses collapsed on the surface. But the weekend’s grass racing went on without any breakdowns. Del Mar’s racing secretary, David Jerkens, is excited about how the horses will take to the turf course this fall.

“It’s still a new course and we are going to average three races a day on it,” Jerkens said. “I am one-hundred percent confident in [the turf course]; it looks terrific.”

Horse injuries were not an issue at Del Mar this past weekend. National correspondent for the Daily Racing Form Jay Privman said he believes that the turf course wasn’t much of a factor to begin with in the rash of horse breakdowns over the summer.

“There were a couple of horses that got hurt in those races who I thought their form was really suspicious,” Privman said. “I don’t know that you can say that it was the turf course that caused the problems specifically.”

Thankfully, the focus at the start of Del Mar’s Bing Crosby Season has been on the horse racing and the allure of bringing back the glamor of vintage Hollywood to the racetrack.

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