Prep for a perfect day with the ponies

L’Auberge Opening Day After Party. (Courtesy photo)

It’s that time of year when it seems like everyone in San Diego flocks to “where the surf meets the turf” for Opening Day at the Del Mar Track Club. Opening Day is a longstanding tradition and quintessential San Diego event that everyone should experience at least once. If this is the year for you to join in on the fun, here are some tips to help you have a fantastic time.

Get fabulous

San Diego isn’t known for being that fashion-forward, but on Opening Day, it’s time to pull out all the stops. Most important are hats. Whether you go for a delicate fascinator or something completely over-the-top, find something for your head. The Opening Day Hats Contest is almost as a big a draw as the actual races.

Plan ahead

If you want a seat, or the chance to stay cool with air conditioning, make sure you purchase your tickets for Opening Day early. Reserved seats are sold separately from admission (Clubhouse admission is $30 on Opening Day; Stretch Run is $15). There’s a range of seating options, including stadium style, box seats and trackside dining tables.

Take your betting very seriously. Or don’t.

You can buy a copy of the Daily Racing Form and carefully study each horse, trainer and jockey. Or you can wing it and come up with your own, ah, “creative ways” to make your picks, such as always betting on a certain color silk, or on gray horses only, or on the one who looks you in the eye. Your call.

Speaking of betting...

It can be intimidating if you’ve never placed a bet on a horse race before. Keep it simple at first (don’t worry about trifectas or exactas). Decide how much you’ll bet, choose a horse and whether you think he’ll win, place or show. In betting terms, “win” means come in first, “place” means first or second and “show” means first, second or third.

So if you have five dollars and think horse No. 8 will come in the top three, you’d tell the clerk, “Five dollars on eight to show.” If you think horse No. 8 is going to win, you’d go for the bigger payout: “Five dollars on eight to win.”

Pro tip: Bring plenty of cash - you don’t want to miss your chance to bet because you’re stuck in an ATM line.

Bonus tip: Want to bet like a pro? Then don’t miss L’Auberge Del Mar’s Pick Your Ponies event on Tuesday, July 18. You’ll get to meet a couple Hall of Fame jockeys and receive betting tips from Michelle Yu of BetAmerica. Pick Your Ponies tickets are $50.

Plan your transportation

Designate a driver, use a ride-share service or hop on the Coaster at the Solana Beach station to avoid a crowded parking lot and arrive safe. Or, use L’Auberge Del Mar’s shuttle to and from the race track if you’re staying at the hotel or attending the hotel’s After Party.

Speaking of which...

Keep the party going

Whether you’ve won big or your chosen horse had an off-day - or if you just enjoyed mingling and people-watching - the best way to end Opening Day is at the L’Auberge Del Mar Opening Day After Party. From 5 p.m. to midnight, enjoy expertly-crafted signature cocktails (“Off to the Races” features bourbon, ginger beer and Memphis Barbecue Bitters), delicious party foods and live entertainment from DJs FishFonics and Gabe Vega.

Go all-out with a private cabana, bottle service or cabana room package. Book a private space and receive an invitation for you and a guest to the Pick Your Ponies event on July 18.

After Party tickets are $229 per person and $250 at the door (if tickets are still available - the party sells out every year). The After Party is a 21+ event. Get more information and purchase tickets at