by Bob Sparrow
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.
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