Opening Day at Del Mar (Part 2)

by Bob Sparrow

DSC00675    On the way to my seat I pass the ‘Cross Over’ – a path through the bleachers where all the horses and jockeys travel  on their way from the paddock to the racetrack – I stop to watch the parade for the first race.   To  my amazement even  the horses are wearing little silk hats on their saddles in the shape of a joc . . ., no wait, that is a  jockey, my gosh they  are small.  I’ve seen a jockey bigger than that on my neighbor’s lawn.

I finally make my way to my seat.  When I bought my ticket over the phone, I was told that my seat was in the ‘pole  position’; I thought the pole position in racing was a good thing – not so much.  Fortunately, my poor pole position  seat  was minimized by my lack of betting acumen, so I never really needed to see the finish line at the end of the race, as my horses were in no particular hurry to get there.  The picture to the right shows that long after the race was finished, I was still waiting for my horse to round the club house turn.DSC00645

“Another beer?”

“No, think I’ll have one of those Mint Julep things, you know, kind of get into the spirit of things?”

“You’re not at Churchill Downs.”


“Do you want some fruit and an umbrella with that?”

 “Hey, are you saying that it’s kind of a girlie drink?  I thought it was a ‘racing drink’.”

“Sir, there’s a line behind you?”

 “Fine, I’ll take one . . . and a shot of tequila!”

Guess I showed her who’s a man!

DSC00679     Aside from a few pre-historic creatures with faces you could bounce a trifecta ticket off of, the crowd was generally  very  young – I kept wondering, ‘Do their parents know they’re here . . . dressed like that?’  And I found that most of  these 20 and 30-somethings paid, even for a single drink, with a card, not cash.  I understand that that generation  really doesn’t  use a lot of cash, but I’m just hoping they were using debit cards and not credit cards; otherwise those $9  beers, with interest, were  costing them about $10.75.

With a bratwurst, a beer (Oh yeah, I got another $9 beer) and my racing form, I sit down in my pole position seat and  watch the people parade.  I must admit that the ladies do a great job at ‘dress up’ – I guess that’s in their DNA; most of them look great.  The guys?  Not so much, although a couple of ‘dandies’ (left) did stop and pose as well as a guy (right) in a seersucker jacket – Sears made it, a sucker bought it.DSC00680

There were a few party fouls perpetrated by ladies who tried to pour their 12-gallon bodies into an 8-gallon dress and top it off with cheesy chapeau; consequently ‘Where the Turf Meets the Surf’, became ‘Where the Hat Meets the Fat’.  Thankfully, no pictures are available.

DSC00681  Here’s me ‘tearing it up’ – my ticket that is, on some nag with a catchy  name that ran  like she was headed to the glue factory.  You can see that the guy sitting  next to me was  less-than-amused with my racetrack antics.

Surprisingly, I didn’t win a race all day, but with great weather, great refreshments and great scenery, I managed to eke  out a good time.

For those worried that I may have been driving under the influence on my way home, worry not; I took the train; not that I was being so responsible, I just couldn’t remember where I had parked my car and OK, I accidentally got on the bus to the train station.  It was just as well, I couldn’t find my keys.

Disclaimers: The Del Mar Opening Day experience was wonderful, my seat wasn’t as bad as it looked, the horses were awesome animals (just not the ones I bet on), the jockeys are courageous athletes, I did see a few over-weight people there, but they all seemed very jolly and, the beers were in fact $9 each, but I only had two of them (honest, Officer).

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Opening Day at Del Mar (Part 1)

by Bob Sparrow

DSC00657      I can count the number of horse races I’ve been to by scratching the ground with my hoof three times, and the number of Opening Days I’ve been to without scratching the ground at all.  But I live about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Del Mar where Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, Jimmy Durante, Pat O’Brien and Oliver Hardy, all part owners, celebrated Del Mar’s first Opening Day back in 1937, so I felt it was time for me to join some 43,000 other fans and open up this year’s racing season at the Del Mar Race Track. 

     I was told to get there early and use the entrance by the ‘Turf Club’ – that’s where all the Hollywood stars go in.  As I’m waiting for the gates to open there, I did see a couple that was trying very hard to look like Scarlett Johansson and Bradley Cooper, but came off looking more like Rosie O’Donnell and Alice Cooper, in stupid hats.  It seemed as if Silicon Valley had moved a little south for the day, but this day was not about nipping and tucking, in fact it wasn’t even really about horse racing . . . it was mostly about hats!  One could find hats of every shape, color and description, and some that were beyond description – some elegant, some hideous.

   DSC00636    DSC00666   DSC00646   DSC00662

     The ‘show’ had started and I wasn’t even inside yet, and it became painfully obvious that I was not going to be let in at the ‘Turf Club’ entrance (I think my skin was too loose), so I meandered down to the ‘Steerage’ gate and was herded through.

“I’d like to buy a  . . . schedule . . . a list of the races . . . a program, a . . . ”                                                                                                                                         “Racing Form?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         “Yes, that’s it, thank you”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     “Good luck buddy!”

With racing form in hand, I pretend to study it, or do whatever it is one does with a racing form.  It makes me thirsty and son of a gun if they don’t have plenty of places to buy a drink.

“That’ll be nine dollars”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           “I’m sorry I just wanted one beer”                                                                                                                                                                                                                       “That’s all you’re getting for nine dollars”                                                                                                                                                                                                           “But it’s only 10 ounces, that’s almost a dollar an ounce!”                                                                                                                                                                                     “Sir, there’s a line behind you”                                                                                                                                                                                                                               “Fine!”

     The beer went down too quickly (Hey, it was only 10 ounces!) and I soon find myself back in the $9 beer line reading the racing form and having a little trouble understanding some of the jargon therein.  I asked another $9 beer line-stander for the definition of a ‘furlong’; he said, “Let me put it this way, with your racing knowledge and proclivity for drinking, your money won’t last furlong.”  I didn’t like his answer, so I turned to another line-stander and ask him to explain what the ‘odds’ meant.  He said, “All you need to know is that they’re always against you”.  I quit asking, but continued to study the racing form and found out that horses in a ‘Maiden Race’ and I have a lot in common, neither of us have ever won a race.

     But today the horses and racing are really secondary to the festivities, and I don’t want to bury my head in racing form statistics while all the ‘festivities’ walk by in short skirts, high heels and bodacious . . . hats.

     I asked a group of young ladies if they wouldn’t mind posing for me for a picture.  The picture below shows their response.



Thursday: Opening Day at Del Mar (Part 2)  My ‘pole position’ seat