Del Mar Horse Racing History
Hollywood crooner Bing Crosby and his gang of Hollywood cronies that included Jimmy Durante and Pat O'Brien got together over 60 years ago, in 1937, to put up a nice little race track to bet on the ponies while enjoying days of cool air and easy breeze in California. Little did they know how much larger than life the Del Mar Racetrack would eventually grow. Just about the only thing that remains of that former quaint race track is a now-scratched recording of Crosby singing the race track's anthem, "Where the Turf Meets the Surf," before each day of horse racing begins.
Cosby and buddies found a sleepy town some 20 miles north of San Diego, called Del Mar, and decided it was the right spot. They could not have been more right. The Del Mar Racetrack would be located right on the beach, where the horsemen can exercise their charges on the sand or in the surf for therapy. Besides, a seaside race track right smack in the middle of a California summer—it was just the hippest idea to happen to horse racing!
The Delmar Thoroughbred Club fast became a hangout haven to Hollywood celebrities such as Ava Gardner, Red Skelton, Dorothy Lamour, W. C. Fields, Paulette Goddard, Edgar Bergen, June Haver, Ann Miller, Don Ameche, Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, and many more of Crosby’s colleagues and contemporaries. Whether it is to rub elbows with the well-heeled in the Turf Club, or with the sun lovers in their beach chairs down trackside, Del Mar brings a laid-back, fun-loving attitude to horse racing that so-called very important people find simply irresistible to this day.
Many of the greatest names in the world of horse racing have graced the turf of Del Mar. The lengthy and still growing list includes William Lee "Bill" Shoemaker, Johnny Longden, Laffit Pincay, Jr., Charles Wittingham, Farrell Jones, Robert Frankel, Eddie Delahoussaye, D. Wayne Lukas, Bob Baffert, Chris McCarron, John & Betty Mabee, Cigar, and Best Pal. Through the years, the Del Mar track ebbed and flowed with the fortunes of the sport of horse racing.
1938 was a landmark year for the Del Mar horse races. World-legendary horse Seabiscuit came to town, and with George "Iceman" Woolf riding, won by a nose in an epic race against Ligaroti. It is known to many that Seabiscuit is now immortalized in the acclaimed book Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand and its well-received movie adaptation by Gary Ross.
Not a race track to stop short of perfection, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club underwent a series of multimillion-dollar renovation and modernization efforts that began in the 1990s. Today, as North America's #1 race track and the annual setting for one of America’s foremost salutes to the sport of horse racing, the Del Mar Racetrack is where the best of the west, the rich and famous, avid fans and horse bettors meet and bet on future thoroughbred champion horses.