Horsing Around

Jockey Alex Solis hits the head of the stretch, going on to win the Grade I, $400,000 Eddie Read Handicap, July 22, 2007 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. (Courtesy Benoit Photo)

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Horse Racing
WHERE: Del Mar Racetrack, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd.
DATES: Wednesday to Sunday, july 20 to Sept. 7.
FIRST RACE: 2 p.m. most days; 4 p.m. Fridays
INFO: 858.755.1141,,

By Amanda Daniels

You’re wearing a brand-new outfit and getting ready to hang with the big boys-Daddys Dollars, Ima Hustler Baby and Alloverdaplace. With a roster like that (and the roar of 45,000 cheering fans), you could be at a hip-hop concert. But despite their rap-star names, today’s performers are actually racehorses. Place your bets and tip your hat-you’re at Opening Day at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, where the turf is still meeting the as ever.

Back in the Saddle
Jockeys must be light and lithe (typically weighing 110-115 pounds), yet strong enough to command a charging stallion.

Here’s how two of this season’s top jockeys stay in racing shape.

Joe Talamo , 21
Height: 5'1"
Weight: 111-112 pounds
Home Town: Monrovia, Calif.
Notable Achievement: 2007 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice
Jockey Joe Talamo recently took up boxing to build muscle mass in his shoulders and arms, areas needed to “push the horses down the lane,” as he describes it. The hard work has paid off-Talamo says he’s gained two to three pounds of muscle from his work in the ring.

Adding boxing to a regimen that previously included only gym workouts and riding practice helps Talamo feel less fatigued after racing. Plus, throwing punches
helps him throw off water weight as required for certain races.

Chantal Sutherland , 35
Height: 5'2"
Weight: 111-113 pounds
Home Town: Sierra Madre, CA
Notable Achievement: First female jockey to win the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (March 2011).

Sutherland maintains lower-body conditioning by riding horses and hiking, strengthening her core and shoulders through rigorous circuit training with an instructor.

To drop water weight before a race, Sutherland jogs in a track suit, then sweats even more in a sauna. She says watching her diet around race time is a balancing act-eating fruit can prove problematic, because its high water content leads to temporary weight gain. On the other hand, dehydration can cause cramping, so vitamins are essential.

No stranger to the spotlight, Sutherland acts and models, and was named one of People magazine’s most beautiful people in 2006. In 2009, she appeared with
then-boyfriend Mike Smith on Animal Planet’s reality TV show, Jockeys. The two are tentatively scheduled to face each other at Del Mar this season, in a race billed as the “Battle of the Exes.”

Smooth as Silks
Racing silks-the vibrant jackets and caps worn by jockeys-are equivalent to team colors or family crests for thoroughbred owners.

With hues and colors as varied (and sometimes outlandish) as the horses’ names, silks, at least those permitted by the California Horse Racing Board, can exhibit logos or almost any symbol.

Del Mar Seamstress Carol Henderson was once asked to design a mudflap trucker girl design, but the naked silhouette didn’t pass the review board’s muster. She talked another client out of a Grim Reaper silk, because she thought the image would be considered in bad taste, not to mention bad luck. She also quashed an order for a Michael Jackson-inspired gold braid trim, because the braids weighed five pounds.

Although her clients request bright colors so they can see their riders, Henderson says plaid and camouflage fabrics have been trending lately.

Henderson frequently sends copies of silks worn by winning jockeys overseas to Japan, where they’re popular as wall ornaments in bars and restaurants. Replicas can be ordered for about $300.

Nice Purse
Del Mar’s signature race event turns 21 this year. On Sunday, August 28, some of the nation’s top horses and jockeys will compete for their share of a $1 million purse in the TVG Pacific Classic, symbolizing the success of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club during a recession that has forced other million-dollar races to fall by the wayside.

Put a Lid on It
Though hats and sexy, chic attire are encouraged every day at Del Mar, Opening Day, Wednesday, July 20, is when bigger is absolutely better. This applies not only to hats, but also to wagers, attendance and cleavage. Men and women flock to the track in suits and dresses, their heads adorned by fedoras, panamas, porkpies and cloches. These mad hatters line up early to compete in the traditional One & Only Truly Fabulous Hat Contest.

San Diego Wildcats
Cougar II (1966-1989), a Chilean racehorse who also competed in the U.S., was inducted into the sports National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2006.

To honor the prize-winning horse (and certain denizens of North County San Diego), the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will host the annual Cougar II Handicap on Friday, July 29. When the race is finished, the hottest female “cougars” in attendance will present the winning trophy. No kidding.

Submit your favorite cougar for consideration by e-mailing a photo and explanation of the cougar’s hotness to: Finalists will be invited to the track for a day, and Ms. Cougar 2011 will be crowned on-site, based on the crowd’s texts and tweets.

Old Del Mar: A History
*The Del Mar Racetrack is known as the place where “nobody’s in a hurry, but the horses.” The phrase, coined by late track publicist, Eddie Read, remains true today. In honor of his career, the Eddie Read Stakes have run since 1974.

*The alluring glamour still felt while strolling through the Spanish-style property is rooted in 1930s Old Hollywood. The efforts of an elite group of actors, included Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper; Oliver Hardy and Pat O’Brien, brought the venue to the beachside village of Del Mar. On the first Opening Day, July 3, 1937, Bing Crosby took tickets himself at the turnstile, pipe in hand. Crosby still croons over the loudspeakers at the beginning of each race day: “There’s a smile on every face, and a winner in each race, where the turf meets the surf, at Del Mar.”

*To get Tinseltown bettors down to the so-called Surfside Race Place, the Santa Fe Railroad used to offer a special train from Los Angeles direct to Del Mar. Races couldn’t start until the train arrived, and it was a longtime tradition for grandstand fans to cheer at the sight of the head car nosing around the bend, into the station. The train no longer stops in Del Mar.

Seeing Stars
Racing season makes Del Mar a playground for celebrities, as it has been for at least three-quarters of a century. In the beginning, there were stars including Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Ava Gardner and Jimmy Durante. In recent years, the track has entertained A-listers Uma Thurman and Toby Maguire, and funnymen Johnny Knoxville and Luke Wilson.

Live Tracks
Ben Harper, Weezer, Devo and other bands will perform this race season on the track’s new Seaside Stage (located at the west end of the grandstand), which allows for easier access and better viewing. Concert admission is free with track admission purchased prior to the final race. Admission after the last race is $20.

Concert Line-up
7/22: G. Love & Special Sauce
7/29: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
7/30: Ziggy Marley Salutes the Legends of Reggae
8/5: The Bravery
8/6: Weezer
8/12: Jimmy Eat World
8/19: Devo
8/26: The Airborne Toxic Event
9/2: Fitz & The Tantrums
9/4: Ben Harper

Pony Up
Common horse wagering terms

According to wagering etiquette From Del Mar to the Kentucky Derby, it’s considered rude to approach the betting window uninformed, making others wait while you ask questions. Avoid equine faux pas by consulting your race form ahead of time to determine which horses and jockeys you wish to bet on, what kind of bet you want to place-and how much your willing to gamble.

Straight Bet: Betting on a horse to “win” (finish in first place), “place” (finish either in first or second) or “show” (finish first, second or third).
Across The Board: Betting that a horse will finish in any of the first three positions.
Exacta: Bettor must pick the first two finishing horses in the order of their finish.
Exacta Box (aka Quinella): Bettor must pick the horses that finish first and second, in either order.
Trifecta: Bettor must pick the first three finishing horses in the order they finish.
Superfecta: Bettor must pick the first four finishing horses in the order they finish.

By the Numbers
Last year’s opening day attendance: 45,309.
Last year’s average daily attendance: 17, 906