There’s some great pictures at Del Mar Race Track of Bob Hope betting the ponies. He’s pictured with his wife, Dolores, and there’s that name again.
It was Tropical Storm Dolores which tossed a monkey wrench into Del Mar’s first week. With nearly 2 inches of rain dousing the new dirt track, Del Mar needed to amend its signature song.
Yep, Hope’s old buddy, Bing Crosby, would have to rework his diddy: “Take a plane, take a train, take a car, take a boat to old Del Mar.”
Of course all that moisture did little to dampen the fans hugging the backstretch rails or their Turf Club drinks.
Yes, the opening-week handle was down some $7 million and yep, attendance was off 21 percent. But that’s all hay in the barn and when does Week 2 start?
Wednesday it is and we’ll meet you there, with the opening week nothing but a moist memory.
“Many of the old-timers commented it was the first time ever they saw a sloppy track at Del Mar,” said horse player Darrell Atkin, who braved Saturday’s showers. “But the staff was great drying off the seats and people had a great time.”
That’s always the goal, and if winning a few bucks along the way, so be it. While the pursuits check split times, gauge the fresh dirt track and look for any edge in the paddocks before every race, Del Mar is much more than ponies.
It’s the party vibe that separates Del Mar from other venues, many falling victim — RIP, Hollywood Park — to off-track betting and other avenues for gamblers to pluck a wager down. While Del Mar’s opening week attendance was askew, don’t think that hampers the rest of the season.
“Even with the rain,” Atkin said, “it was a fantastic day of racing and I look forward to going back out.”
Del Mar will weather the first-week storm. If nothing else, it’ll make everyone appreciate the conditions moving forward.
So what if it wasn’t perfect. There’s a Triple Crown winner in stable FF and that only adds to the Del Mar joy. American Pharoah is training at Del Mar for the next month’s Haskill Invitational. Get to the track by 7:45 a.m. on the weekends, and there’s a strong chance you’ll see the majestic colt blaze past in all its glory.
It’s unlikely American Pharoah will run in Del Mar’s $1 million Pacific Classic. But it’s possible he’ll be paraded that day before what promises to be a huge crowd.
It’ll be a gathering which is there as much for the festivities as for the betting.
Del Mar is a place where no one is in hurry but the horses. What’s the rush?
That goes for this week as there’s more than handicapping ponies at the palace where the turf meets the surf.
Stick around after Friday’s 4 p.m. post for The Mighty 1090’s Listener Party and to see The Wailers play a post-race concert.
On Saturday it’s the San Diego Craft Beer Festival. After toasting the unique suds, settle in and listen to The Offspring perform.
So the Del Mar elements were a little off right from the gate. The horses are off and running and there’s still a winner in every race.
Just like every summer, Del Mar lands in the winner’s circle and we circle back to Bob Hope.
By the time the 40-day meet ends, many will crow, “Thanks for the memories.”