‘Tis the 75th Season: In Old Del Mar

This week it was off to the races at the Del Mar Racetrack, celebrating its 75thanniversary.

Bing Crosby sings. Photo by: Thomas Hawk

Bing Crosby, a horseracing enthusiast, convinced his Hollywood friends, like Pat O’Brien and Jimmy Durante, to raise money to build the venue.  He personally greeted the arriving guests when the Turf Club opened to the public in July 1937.  At a time when the sport was second only to popularity to major league baseball, the success of the venture was never in doubt.

It was somewhat of a surprise, however, when Crosby’s horse, High Strike, won the first race.  The fix wasn’t in, but it might have seemed that way.

This year opening-day attendance of 47,339 set a record, the eighth in a row.  They bet $14.1 million, compared to $13.2 million a year ago.

Jockey Chantal Sutherland on trainer Kristin Mulhall’s Miss California won the first race.   This was hardly surprising.  The petite, of course, blonde jockey with the model-good looks is closing in on 1,000 races and $45 million dollars in earnings.  In 2011 she was the first woman to win the Santa Anita Handicap, and she had won the Hollywood Gold Cup only a couple of weeks earlier.

But even the poster girl in the racetrack’s advertising campaign this season has her moments.  Just after the start of the seventh race she was – how to say this nicely – dumped by her mount Sir Hamilton.  She wasn’t hurt, except maybe for her pride, and she was given the okay to ride in the tenth race.

One of People magazine’s “Most Beautiful People” in 2006 she has a good sense of her chosen profession.  “This game is tough,” she declared after being thrown. “One minute you’re on top and winning, the next you’re gum at the bottom of someone’s shoe.”

Bing Crosby couldn’t have said it better, even if he put it to music.

© 2012 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


For anyone for whom Christmas can’t be here soon enough:


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