Getting Racy: The Essentials for Opening Day at Del Mar


It’s off to the races as the Del Mar Racetrack celebrates the start of its 80th season on Wednesday, July 17. Thousands of spectators from across Southern California will gather for Opening Day festivities, which include the longtime tradition of a hat contest.

When gates open at 11:30 a.m., a parade of stylish and outrageous fashions will flow through the clubhouse, where race fans can place their wagers. The day-long party will include between eight and 12 horse races, with about 30 minutes in between for guests to place bets ($2 minimum) and top off their cocktails.

The racetrack has been rooted in Hollywood glamour since 1937 when actor and singer Bing Crosby welcomed guests to the first race. Since then, the Del Mar Racetrack, “where the turf meets the surf,” has become the place to see and be seen. Pony up!

The 2019 season ends on Sept. 2.
(Eduardo Contreras | San Diego Union-Tribune)

What to bring

Large, ornate hats, elaborate fascinators and other headwear are longtime wardrobe staples of the Del Mar Racetrack, as are stiletto heels. Heel protectors like Grasswalkers ( can help with sinking into the ground while traversing the inner track area. To plan for ocean breezes, spectators are advised to pack a light jacket or sweater.

Having cash on hand will streamline trips to the betting counter. And for those who plan to win big, a social security card is required to claim winnings, since they’re taxable.

Because not all seating areas or sections are shaded, guests should bring sunscreen, such as popular local brands Sun Bum ( or Coola ( Get both sun protection and color with Sun Bum’s tinted lip balm (SPF 15), available in five shades to keep lips moisturized throughout the day. For a sun-kissed tan without skin damage or a funky smell, try Coola’s sunless tan luminizing face compact to add a shimmery glow to touch-ups.

Where to shop

To prepare for Opening Day, the Flower Hill Promenade in Del Mar is hosting a special event on July 13 by clothe+arrow and Thieves Like Us Collection that will include local vendor pop-up shops selling hats, dresses, jewelry and more. There will be a raffle, and light bites and sips will be served.

Visit L’Auberge Del Mar on July 15-17 to browse Christine A. Moore Millinery’s pop-up shop filled with elegant hats. As the unofficial hat designer to the stars, Moore is best known for her extravagant Kentucky Derby hat designs.

For last-minute purchases and preparations near the track, the new One Paseo shopping center includes high-end retailers Van De Vort and Whiskey x Leather that offer ready-to-wear looks. Book an appointment at Curbar nail salon for mani-pedi services, or Drybar hair salon to get a blowout that comes with complimentary mini hairspray for the track.

Where to party

As the races come to an end, several after-parties will be kicking things into high gear.

L’Auberge Del Mar will celebrate in style with its annual Opening Day After-Party from 5 p.m. to midnight, with entertainment provided by DJs FishFonics and Gabe Vega, and beverages and bites available at food stations throughout the resort. Tickets are $229 in advance or $260 at the door, with VIP upgrades available.

The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe’s Ultimate After-Party: Hats, Heels & Hooves will transform the resort’s lawn into an over-the-top evening of food, cocktails and special entertainment — including a champagne aerialist serving Moet, and music by Ryan Hiller and DJ Pros. Held from 5 to 10 p.m., the event will benefit a nonprofit that provides a home for retired thoroughbred horses. Tickets start at $125, with VIP packages available.

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa’s After Pony Party will be an extravagant affair with all-you-can-eat food stations, a complimentary welcome cocktail, cash bar, DJ and dancing and plenty of photo ops. Guests can expect to see celebrity jockeys and luxury sponsors at the party, which kicks off at 6 p.m. Tickets are $125, with VIP experiences available.

What to rock out to

Beyond Opening Day festivities, the Del Mar Racetrack will offer plenty of reasons to get to the track, including concerts that occur on Fridays and select Saturdays after the races have ended.

Here’s the current concert lineup for the 2019 season.

• Friday, July 19: All American Rejects
• Saturday, July 20: Reggae Fest with Ziggy Marley
• Friday, July 26: J Boog
• Saturday, July 27: Midland
• Friday, Aug. 2: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
• Saturday, Aug. 3: Iration
• Friday, Aug. 16: Chase Rice
• Friday, Aug. 23: SOJA
• Friday, Aug. 30: Steel Pulse
• Saturday, Aug. 31: Angels & Airwaves
• Monday, Sept. 2: Wayward Sons

Del Mar Racetrack All American Rejects
All American Rejects will perform at Del Mar Racetrack on July 19.
(Getty Images)

The standing room only shows are 18+ and begin after the races at approximately 4 p.m. All concerts are free with purchase of $6 racetrack admission, and increase to $30 after the last race of the day. For $50, upgrade to South Terrace VIP for a private concert viewing experience and other perks.

Del Mar Racing season

When: July 17 to Sept. 2
Where: Del Mar Fairgrounds, Del Mar