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Del Mar races crowd happy, but down two-thirds

Free concerts, elevator ladies missing

Amber from Escondido wearing butterfly wisteria hat. She's entered opening day hat contest for 10 years.
Amber from Escondido wearing butterfly wisteria hat. She's entered opening day hat contest for 10 years.

“The horse was named after the doctor that did my wife’s breast implants,” said Erik, the owner of Dr. Troutman, the odds-on favored horse in the first race, on the first day of the 82nd running of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Friday, July 16 saw a reduced crowd. “About one third of normal capacity,” reported a track employee, pointing to the track’s Covid policy that limited ticket sales. Tickets for the opener were pre-sale only and were sold out weeks in advance.

The Paddock: owners, trainers, family, friends gather to meet jockeys.

In the general admission area, in front of the grandstands, where race fans usually congregate standing, or bring their own beach chairs, picnic tables were placed instead. The infield picnic and party areas were not opened. No after-race free concerts are planned this year.

Also missing were the elevator operator ladies, one of the last bastions of the old days of going up in multi-story buildings. The ladies would sit on a stool in the often hot and crowded elevators, push the buttons for guests, and announce each floors as riders arrived; “Clubhouse,” (floors two and three), or “Turf Club”, (floors four and five, sport jackets required for the men), and finally “Press Room,” on level six.

After the first few races, track president Joe Harper said of the 2020 no-spectator Covid season, “We knew Del Mar would come back. We just needed to be patient.”

San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies and track officers tightened security. At the Paddock, where owners, trainers, their family and friends, and the media, gather to meet the jockeys as they mount up for each race, the well-dressed had their credentials checked before being allowed entrance.

It was the first time attending for 23-year-old Rebecca from Encinitas, although she has worked a popular food stand at the county fair for years. “I’ll pick the ones [horses] with the coolest names,” she said. “We come for the social aspects and people watching,” said her companion, Kelly, from Oceanside. Kelly’s husband Andrew added, “And the betting.”

After winning race number one in front of the first live crowd in over 15 months, winner Abel Cidillo aboard Leprino said, “I am thankful the fans have come back to support us. It was a ghost town here last year. It’s an honor to be here. We enjoy winning at Del Mar. There’s no place like it.”

The summer meet runs Thursday through Sunday, closing out on Labor Day Monday. The fall Crosby Series returns for four weeks to Del Mar on November 3, including the Super Bowl of horseracing, The Breeders Cup, on November 4 and 5.

Total opening day attendance was 15,874, almost exactly one-third of the usual crowd. The total handle, including off track wagering, was just over $21 million.

The horse Dr. Troutman in the first race, odds favorite, with last year’s most winning jockey Flavian Prat aboard, placed last in the field of eight.

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Amber from Escondido wearing butterfly wisteria hat. She's entered opening day hat contest for 10 years.
Amber from Escondido wearing butterfly wisteria hat. She's entered opening day hat contest for 10 years.

“The horse was named after the doctor that did my wife’s breast implants,” said Erik, the owner of Dr. Troutman, the odds-on favored horse in the first race, on the first day of the 82nd running of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

Friday, July 16 saw a reduced crowd. “About one third of normal capacity,” reported a track employee, pointing to the track’s Covid policy that limited ticket sales. Tickets for the opener were pre-sale only and were sold out weeks in advance.

The Paddock: owners, trainers, family, friends gather to meet jockeys.

In the general admission area, in front of the grandstands, where race fans usually congregate standing, or bring their own beach chairs, picnic tables were placed instead. The infield picnic and party areas were not opened. No after-race free concerts are planned this year.

Also missing were the elevator operator ladies, one of the last bastions of the old days of going up in multi-story buildings. The ladies would sit on a stool in the often hot and crowded elevators, push the buttons for guests, and announce each floors as riders arrived; “Clubhouse,” (floors two and three), or “Turf Club”, (floors four and five, sport jackets required for the men), and finally “Press Room,” on level six.

After the first few races, track president Joe Harper said of the 2020 no-spectator Covid season, “We knew Del Mar would come back. We just needed to be patient.”

San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies and track officers tightened security. At the Paddock, where owners, trainers, their family and friends, and the media, gather to meet the jockeys as they mount up for each race, the well-dressed had their credentials checked before being allowed entrance.

It was the first time attending for 23-year-old Rebecca from Encinitas, although she has worked a popular food stand at the county fair for years. “I’ll pick the ones [horses] with the coolest names,” she said. “We come for the social aspects and people watching,” said her companion, Kelly, from Oceanside. Kelly’s husband Andrew added, “And the betting.”

After winning race number one in front of the first live crowd in over 15 months, winner Abel Cidillo aboard Leprino said, “I am thankful the fans have come back to support us. It was a ghost town here last year. It’s an honor to be here. We enjoy winning at Del Mar. There’s no place like it.”

The summer meet runs Thursday through Sunday, closing out on Labor Day Monday. The fall Crosby Series returns for four weeks to Del Mar on November 3, including the Super Bowl of horseracing, The Breeders Cup, on November 4 and 5.

Total opening day attendance was 15,874, almost exactly one-third of the usual crowd. The total handle, including off track wagering, was just over $21 million.

The horse Dr. Troutman in the first race, odds favorite, with last year’s most winning jockey Flavian Prat aboard, placed last in the field of eight.

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Security always checks credentials of anyone entering the paddock--Covid or not. It was also dumb of Del Mar to not open the infield or GA sections to people with their own chairs, unless the County Health Dept said no, which of course makes no sense. See: Petco Park

July 20, 2021

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