The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club kicks off its diamond anniversary meeting at 2 p.m. (PDT) Wednesday with a couple of traditions that have been around for awhile, though not for the seaside track's entire 75-year history.
On the racing front, the 67th running of the Oceanside Stakes for 3-year-olds running on turf has been split into two divisions, with trainer John Sadler holding a strong hand in both sections.
Sadler's trio of entries includes the Lawyer Ron colt Koast, winner in three of his five starts, who breaks from the rail post under Julien Leparoux in the sixth race. In the second division, going as the ninth race on the 10-race card, Sadler has two runners, the Decarchy colt Stoney Fleece, most recently second in the Silky Sullivan Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, and Holy Candy, a son of Candy Ride who finished fourth in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, then ran third in the G3 Affirmed Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park (where Sadler won three stakes races last Saturday, including the G1 American Oaks).
Ray Paulick and Scott Jagow of the Paulick Report will be on hand throughout opening week, providing daily selections and feature stories in specially produced videos. Paulick will try his hand at handicapping Saturday's full program, topped by the G1 Eddie Read Handicap, in an on-track seminar that begins at 12:45 p.m.
But opening day of the track where the “Turf Meets the Surf” – which is expected to attract a crowd in excess of 40,000 – is about more than racing. The Del Mar opening is one of the biggest social events of the year in San Diego county, reflected by the wall-to-wall coverage of local television stations and newspapers, and San Diegans put on a fashion show that rivals the Kentucky Oaks or Derby in Louisville.
One of the biggest events of the day is The One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest, which has become a popular Del Mar tradition. Some of the hats are glamorous, some are crazy, and some downright weird. Contestants who enter the contest are judged in one of several categories: Most Glamorous, Best Racing Them, Funnest/Most Outraeous, Best Flowers/All Others, and, new this year, Best Fascinator.
“Hat competitions abound but none is greater or with more spectacular hats than the opening day hat contest at Del Mar,” said Los Angeles-based hat designer Alakazia, who creates hats for celebrities including Lady Gaga. “The world is my oyster and hats are my passion! The array at Del Mar is simply astounding.”
“The hat business is booming,” said Julie Sarno, who began the Hats Contest in 1995 and continues to coordinate it each year. “More women are daring to wear hats and fascinators. Wearing a fascinator is like dipping your toe in the water. It completes the outfit but is not as big a commitment as a hat. A well-designed hat or fascinator completes an outfit, adding to its appeal and allure.”
Anyone wishing to enter The One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest simply go to the Hats Contest area in the Stretch Run Plaza de Mexico around the fountain. Entries are taken between 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. There is a $300 first prize in each category, $200 for second and $100 for third. The Best Fascinator Category features a $100 prize.
The Grand Prize is two American Airlines flight vouchers, good for air transportation to any American Airlines destination in the contiguous United States. This year's contest is sponsored by Studio Savvy, which has locations in Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe.
In addition, the first prize winner in the Most Glamorous category receives a gift from The Diamond Boutique, located in Flower Hill Mall in Del Mar.
The 2012 season runs through Sept. 5, with racing Wednesday through Sunday each week. The $1,000,000 Pacific Classic on Sunday, Aug. 26, one of seven Grade 1 races, is the biggest event of the meet.
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