I’m enjoying the cool darkness of the Tucson evening from my balcony as I write this blog, though my heart is still on Jimmy Durante Boulevard, a block away from the beach. I left Del Mar last Sunday, after a final week of Pacific Classic prep, Baffert gossip and beach parties.
The Pacific Classic preparation began with putting together media guides with the nominated horses’ information. Then there was the post position draw party at the swanky Rancho Valencia resort in Rancho Santa Fe. All of the connections, a few jockeys and trainers, the press and TVG turned out to watch Tom Robbins & Rick Hammerle pull pills and horse names, and chuckle when Joe Harper called it “the Bob Baffert going away party.”
I met a few of the West Point partners in Awesome Gem; listened as track trumpeter Les Kepics and a guitarist serenaded us with jazzy tunes as the sun set in gorgeous colors; got a few pics of Isle of Giant’s trainer, Ben Cecil, and one of the owners ripping the horse’s name off the sign after the party…
The Pacific Classic trophy is pretty neat – it is made of crystal and has curves along the base that look like ocean waves! It’s not the Woodlawn Vase, but it’s totally Del Mar cool.
The day of the Classic, my main job was to get as many shots of people around the TVG signs as possible. The network also had a giveaway of TVG flip flops and a full field of pink-silked jockey girls to distribute them.
I enjoyed a final day of paddocking, got lots of pics of the Classic contenders, then squeezed along the rail for one last big race. I saw Richard’s Kid, still in mid-pack, kick into a higher gear as they ran past me in the stretch. He managed to get to the front in the last few jumps and power under the wire for his second Pacific Classic victory. The horse really likes Del Mar.
His trainer doesn’t though, and only a few days before the race had vowed to leave Del Mar if they didn’t restore the traditional dirt surface next year. He didn’t go to the draw party (which allowed me to do some cannibalizing of the sign, too and snatch Richard’s Kid’s plaque) and wasn’t at the races that day, either. Instead, he was at Saratoga, where he had to watch as 3 of his trainees won decisively on the Del Mar stretch he hates, including BOTH of the grade 1s!
Team Intern had one last big blast at the Horsemen’s Beach Party & Volleyball tournament. The party was back after a few seasons’ hiatus, and it was probably the most fun thing I did all week. The beach near the track is gorgeous, and the track set up tents and nets and called in a caterer to make the scene even better. Those backstretch workers were some *serious* volleyballers – they had Olympic-level technique and an intense competitive streak! I didn’t play (because balls tend to hit me more than I hit them in these games) but Team Intern still brought it hard and left it all on the court (hehe for sports cliches!). The weather was perfect that afternoon — the sand sizzled but the ocean water cooled us all off between games. The Brown Scorpions team won a hard-fought final match with Doc’s Bunch, the reigning champs.
There is still one last weekend of fun at old Del Mar, but I must watch it on TVG. But when I see Camacho the outrider and his horse Max on the screen, or catch a glimpse of Ken, Sue or Heather on the patrol judges’ stands, and see Connie, the winner’s circle queen award the bottle of champagne to the winning horse’s owners, I’ll feel like I’m right back there.
Del Mar will be on my annual trip list no matter where I end up after this year. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to do the only thing I missed out on this year:
Sing with Bing!!!
Where the turf meets the surf…
Down at old Del Mar….
Take a plane, take a train, take a car….
There’s a smile on every face…
And a winner in each race…
Where the Turf meets the surf….
At DEL MAR!!!