La Jolla native Soha Dokainish checks out the horses in the paddock on Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Cheekaboomboom, ridden by Flavien Prat, comes from behind to win the third race on Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Katherine Perez of Otay Ranch participates in the hats contest. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Nikki Bella, professional wrestler and reality TV personality, speaks with jockey Rafael Bejarano, who rode Bronzino in the second race, in the paddock on Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Brie Bella, professional wrestler and reality TV personality, with friend Shawna Allan (left), check out horses in the paddock on Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Lindsay Cazarez, of Newport Beach, participates in the hats contest. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Mariah Meerschaert, of Solana Beach, and Brooke Hasselmann, of Carmel Valley, have fun at Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Soha Dokainish watches the horses being loaded into the starting gate for the fifth race of Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Belinda Berry, of Walnut Creek, participates in the hats contest. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Fans in the grandstand watch the second race of Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Alia Ahmed (left), of Orange County, has fun at Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
People stream into Del Mar Racecourse for Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
A participant in the hats contest has fun posing. / Photo by Thomas Melville
Competitors in the third race come around the first turn on the turf course. / Photo by Thomas Melville
La Jolla native Soha Dokainish at the rail during Opening Day. / Photo by Thomas Melville
From left: Aubrey Fohl, Christine Best, Lauren Donahue, Andria Elam, Lauren Jenkins, Virginia Foster, Carlene McKnight, Mollie Cameron, Belinda Berry, and Christina Stutz.
On a sweltering afternoon in mid-July, hats, haute, and horses assembled to live up to the hype of Opening Day for Del Mar Racetrack’s 78th summer season.
Women in elevated heels – only surpassed by the cusp of their millinery adorned with flowers, feathers, and fillies – modeled colorful dresses with matching gloves that held the arms of suitors styled with jackets, ties, and toppers as they paraded into the racetrack on Wednesday, July 19.
“It all starts with the shoes,” said Soha Dokainish, about constructing her outfit for the occasion. Her heels, a Carolina blue, led to a cerulean and white dress with a cobalt and cream hat. “It took a long time to create my look – like months,” said the La Jolla native, who checked out horses in the paddock and watched the fourth race of the day from the rail.
The fashion – including the 23rd annual Opening Day Hats Contest, which drew more than 300 contestants – usually comes first, but soon after, the betting windows open and horses burst out of the gate.
Del Mar presented a half-dozen stakes races during the first week, highlighted by an extraordinary running of the TVG San Diego Handicap on Saturday that saw overwhelming favorite Arrogate suffer a shocking defeat at the hands of Accelerate, in a race that drew a national buzz and added a whole new dimension to the track’s $1-million TVG Pacific Classic scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 19.
Music and donuts
The Summer Concert Series at Del Mar, held Fridays after the races, carries on with the Violent Femmes performance at 7 p.m. Friday, July 28.
On Saturday, July 29, head to the Seaside Terrace area from 8 to 10 a.m. for free coffee, orange juice and donuts. Track announcer, Trevor Denman, will host a Q&A session with jockeys and trainers while attendees can watch horses do their morning workouts. Later that day, the Gourmet Food Truck Festival rolls into Del Mar with more than 40 vendors.
On weekends, from 1 to 6 p.m. families may join the party in the infield with a variety of free activities including pony rides, face painting and an obstacle course. Children receive free racetrack admission, and for adults the cost is $6.
Hats contest winners
The winners of the Opening Day Hats Contest at Del Mar were announced late in the afternoon at the winners circle on the track. Categories included Most Glamorous, Best Fascinator, Best Flowers, Best Race Track Theme and Most Outrageous. Contestants competed for more than $5,000 in cash and prizes.
The Grand Prize winner was Christina Stutz of San Diego who competed in the Most Outrageous category. Stutz won a Fairmont Grand Del Mar one-night stay and dinner for two at Addison Restaurant, featuring chef William Bradley's multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings valued at $1,000. She also received $300 cash and a Studio Savvy gift basket valued at $250.
Stutz delighted Del Mar race fans with a grand scale presentation topped with an elegant life-sized horse enthusiast in a lovely hat of her own. The race fan topper carried an authentic 1948 vintage Del Mar racing program with betting slips. Stutz, whose hat took two months on-and-off to design, told the story about her father attending Opening Day in 1948 and was the inspiration for her clever take on the Del Mar scene.
Christine Best of Carlsbad won the category of Best Flowers made of gorgeous live white orchids in an understated elegant form. Mollie Cameron of San Diego who won the Best Fascinator category wore an incredibly architected fascinator design that was stunningly simplistic and sculpted out of a single sheet of paper.
The winner in the Most Glamorous category, Lauren Donahue from San Diego was dressed in a beautiful vintage lace dress and hand-made hatinator in beautiful fruit with flowers and ostrich feathers. And rounding out the field of winners in the category of Best Racing Theme, Lauren Jenkins donned a full size surfer wave, with horse race and aquarium atop a surf board themed "Where the Turf Meets The Surf."
Racing at Del Mar happens Wednesday through Sunday with the exception of Closing Day on Labor Day Monday. First post daily will be at 2 p.m. First post on Fridays will be at 4 p.m. with the exceptions of Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 when the first post is 3:30 p.m.
For more information, visit www.delmarracing.com.