Author: Lindsay Griffin

Del Mar Racetrack, located in southern California along the Pacific coast, first opened its doors in the summer of 1937. Its picturesque scenery and proximity to Hollywood made it a popular hangout for celebrities during the summer, and in fact the track was co-founded by star entertainer Bing Crosby, who owned and raced Thoroughbreds. 

Del Mar holds two racing meets each year: a summer meet running from July until September, and a fall/winter meet running from November until early December. Though Del Mar hosts many major events such as the San Diego County Fair, and attracts a high-society crowd with fashion displays and parties, the main focus will always be on the races and the horses that compete in them. 

These are just three of the famous races held annually at the Del Mar race track, “where the turf meets the surf.” 

The Del Mar Futurity

A futurity is a stakes race specifically for two-year-olds, designed to showcase the future stars in racing. The Grade I Del Mar Futurity has, in recent years, done just that. Since 2004, seven winners of the Del Mar Futurity have gone on to become the champion two-year-old male: Declan’s Moon (2004), Stevie Wonderboy (2005), Midshipman (2008), Lookin At Lucky (2009), American Pharoah (2014), Nyquist (2015), and Game Winner (2018). Of these, Lookin at Lucky and Nyquist went on to win a Triple Crown race apiece as three-year-olds, and American Pharoah went on to take the entire Grand Slam of Thoroughbred racing. 

This year’s Del Mar Futurity is scheduled for Sunday, September 11. It is run on the dirt at seven furlongs (⅞ miles). Because the two-year-old division has just begun running, a field has not shaped up, but rest assured that the best two-year-old Thoroughbreds on the West Coast will be eyeing this race. 

The Bing Crosby Stakes

Named for the famed founder of the Del Mar Turf Club, the Grade I Bing Crosby Stakes is a sprint race that features some of the all-out fastest horses in the country. The race is a six furlong (¾ miles) dash over the dirt, and is open to horses three years old and up. Many three-year-old sprinters have used this race as a way to test themselves against their older counterparts, and they have had considerable success doing so; recent winners Dr. Schivel, Collusion Illusion, and Zensational all took the famed race at age three.

The Bing Crosby Stakes will be held this year on Saturday, July 30th. Among the probable entries for the race are Grade II Triple Bend Stakes winner American Theorem, a five-year-old son of American Pharoah who once unsuccessfully contested Triple Crown preps before seeming to come into his own as a sprinter. This victory- his first in a graded stakes- came after a hard stretch drive, in which he prevailed by a nose over the gritty Principe Carlo, who had stalked the pace throughout. 

American Theorem will likely face a familiar rival, Grade III Kona Gold Stakes winner Brickyard Ride, who had been favored in the Triple Bend but faded to finish fifth. Brickyard Ride, who was looking to extend his four-race (all stakes) win streak to five, was challenged early in the race by Principe Carlo and set very fast fractions, completing the half-mile in just over 44 seconds, but was unable to sustain the hot pace. 

The Pacific Classic

The Grade I Pacific Classic, inaugurated in 1991, was the first million-dollar race offered at Del Mar. Since its first running, it has been an appealing summer target for older dirt routers, its ten furlong (1 ¼ miles) distance matching historic races such as the Kentucky Derby and the Breeder’s Cup Classic. Recent winners include Grade I Saudi Cup winner Maximum Security, Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, and the popular multiple-championship-holding mare Beholder. 

This year’s Pacific Classic, scheduled for Saturday, September 3rd, has attracted none other than the top-rated horse in the United States, Grade I Metropolitan Handicap winner Flightline. The lightly raced (but heavily talented) son of Tapit has raced at Del Mar, his second victory in as many starts taking place at the end of last year’s summer meet. A victory in the Pacific Classic would extend Flightline’s undefeated streak to five, and prove that his brilliance is part of his versatility, not limited to sprint or mile distances.

He faces perhaps his toughest competition yet in Country Grammer, who most recently won the Grade I Dubai World Cup. A five-year-old son of Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, Country Grammer is already proven at the ten furlong distance, and though he has never raced at Del Mar, his stakes victories at Saratoga, Santa Anita, and Meydan show that he is able to take his race on the road. He is trained by Bob Baffert, who is no stranger to the Pacific Classic, having won six previous editions.