Category Archives: Del Mar

Sing with Bing

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.

Evening Jewel after winning the Del Mar Oaks

Hall of Fame jockeys Mike Smith & Don Pierce (l-r)

Da Boomer, impressive 2yo winner trained by Tom Blincoe

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!!!

Richard's Kid exits the track after a fun & successful season at Del Mar!

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Filed under Del Mar, Graded Stakes, Infield Trips, internship, polytrack

This Blog is about Gambling – FINALLY

Da Boomer heads to the winner's circle after his victorious first career start!

Working at Del Mar has given me many opportunities for academic and personal growth and has also allowed my bankroll to grow, too!

Early on my cohorts decided I would be the one to make the picks for Team Intern wagering based on my encyclopedic knowledge of racing history & the horses currently on-track.  After all, I was the one going out to watch the morning workouts, right?  I *had* to know something.

After about 3 weeks I finally got it together to actually do some handicapping, and Team Intern bankroll was born — with $2 from each of us.  I did the most basic bet, an across-the-board on a favorite.  Favorite won, we doubled our initial investment.  I looked at the second race, made the exact same bet on a mid-priced horse, and we hit again!  Long story short, by the end of the day the B-52s were playing Love Shack in the infield and Team Intern’s earnings were bang-bang-bangin’ on the door of $55!

Each week I’ve also worked the Sunday Handicapping Contest booth with honorary Team Intern member, Caso.  (If you’ve been to Del Mar this season, he’s the dude who looks like a secret service agent in the crisp white shirt & shades.)  I’ve tried to pick up some tips from the players, who all have systems and hints for making the best bets for the contest.  (I’ve also had a mini-heart attack each week when I cash out the bank because someone thought it would be a good idea for me to be responsible for the money.)   It’s a really cool contest (and I’m not just sayin’ that ‘cuz they pay me) and easy to play: $20 entry fee, $50 live bankroll, pick a single horse in 5 Del Mar races & bet it $5 to win/$5 to place. Biggest bankroll after the last race wins $1000.  It’s so easy I could do it (& I would have won it the day we made $55!) .

The best thing is going to the infield and hearing the folks out there talk about wagering strategy.  Saturday, before Weezer rocked the place’s face off, I took a trip back to where it all started for me.  There was a beerfest going on, too, which made for some very interesting, slurred conversations to eavesdrop on:  3 guys in fedoras deep into a discussion of the 4th race, making hilarious arguments for one horse over another, how losing tickets reflected on the player’s manhood, quotes from The Hangover, and some goofy guffaws… though the horses about to go to post were for the 6th race!

Today I worked my final handicapping contest, and it was a milestone – we got 150 players, the most ever!

During lunch, I sat with Julio Canani and had a surreal conversation – it started out me asking (probably dumb) questions about training, and then shifted to (pretty much verbatim what was said):

ME: I’m never going to be able to go to another track again, I’m spoiled for life.

JULIO: Why?

ME: I’ve got this pass that gets me everywhere! I can go to the backside, to the paddock, to the Turf Club…

JULIO: I’d rather take a pass to the movies…

ME: Oh, that would be nice, too, if there were anything good out to see.

JULIO: There’s lots out now.

ME: What was the last movie you saw?

JULIO: Beverly Hills Chihuahua

……………….

I asked Julio if he liked anyone on the card today, and he shook his head no.  He asked me who I liked today.

ME: Number 6 horse in the 7th race, Da Boomer

JULIO: Why?

ME: Because I fed him candy on Friday

JULIO: (Laughing) You should have fed him more candy!

…………….

Later, I met Del Mar’s Mayor of FourSquare, Weldon.  He’s a laid back guy, and he enjoyed his tour of the paddock that Amy & I did before the 7th race.  It was a maiden special weight for 2 year olds, all of them first time starters, an absolute nightmare to handicap.  Weldon said he always did longshots in those kinds of races and asked me who I liked, I said I liked #6, Da Boomer, because I knew his trainer, Tom Blincoe, and had fed the horse candy one morning.

Weldon and his friends had picked #2, Bruno B.  They kind of gave me that, “ok well good on you then” smile.

Tell me what happened after Da Boomer won the race?  I was the smartest person in the room then!  I was so happy for Tom, too!  I’ll have to give Boomer an extra candy next Friday;)  When I congratulated Tom after the winner’s circle photo, he gave me a hug – when I turned around I realized I was in front of Christina O and TVG cameras! YIKES!

The sad part of this story is, even though I picked Da Boomer, told Julio Canani & Weldon the FourSquare Mayor & Amy Intern, I didn’t place the bet!  Da Boomer paid $28.40, $13.40 and $6.40… talk about wouldacouldashouldas!!!

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Filed under Brag sheet, Del Mar, Handicapping, internship

You Ain’t Seen Nothing Like It — ZENYATTA at Del Mar, pt 3

The most asked question on all of the Del Mar social media sites since July 6 was: Is Zenyatta going to race there?

Many close followers of racing (and those who think they know everything) probably believe that the track was confident in her entry, knew it all along, so much so in fact, that they made souvenir pint glasses to give away on Hirsch day.

Fact is, the people in the Del Mar Executive Offices were as anxious as the fans about her entry in the Clement Hirsch.  The uncertainty hovered even up to race day.  When I arrived that morning, the buzz was that another trainer had pulled his horses from training over the polytrack and that Z’s connections were going to scratch.  Then the rumor was that they were going to wait until the 2nd race to decide whether to scratch.  Then the time pushed back to 45mins before post time.  You can imagine the hairpulling that went on behind the scenes. (Don’t quote me on this, but I am pretty sure the pint glasses were a year in the making, due to the production/shipment schedules from China and all).

So it was a huge relief when the big, near-black mare with the tornado-shaped blaze finally approached the receiving barn, entourage close behind, camera crews and photographers in pursuit, around 5:45 p.m.  I had scouted a spot just outside of the barn, at the shoe inspector’s truck, for my pre-race glimpse.  All of my backside excursions, all of the people I’d met and shadowed throughout the past 4 weeks had well prepared me for this assignment.  I knew that it would be difficult to get around the Sherriffs barn on race day (both due to the queen’s schedule as well as my internship duties).  The paddock was out of the question, too – there were over 400 paddock passes given out for the media & connections of the horses in the Hirsch.  Even if I’d gotten in, my pics would have been over heads and between arms.  But I knew every horse had to stop by the receiving barn for I.D. and shoe inspections.

She was poised and calm at that point, not yet ready to start her famous strut.  The afternoon sun shone brightly, illuminating the dapples on her gleaming coat.  She was a pro at shoe inspection time, lifting each hoof delicately before farrier Victor even reached for them.  Zenyatta stood calmly as horse I.D. expert Diane flipped the mare’s upper lip to check the tattoo.

That’s when I had to dash.

The next step in my Hirsch game plan was the most difficult.  I hurried through the mob at the paddock, squeezing between and ducking around people who craned their heads to see even an eartip of the fabulous Z.  My destination: winner’s circle.

I staked out my spot along the rail as the 8th race went off.  A few other photogs and a video guy or two also had the same idea.  I looked back at the grandstand – every level was packed.  The apron was 10-deep, even for the 8th race!  I spotted a few pink and teal signs among the mob. The crowd around me at the rail grew with each minute as well, until security had to hold back at least 200.

At around 6:15, the excitement reached crescendo as Zenyatta stepped out of the tunnel and onto the track.  She strutted, swayed, bowed and posed as she did her diva thang in the post parade.  On the big screen of the tote board, the track broadcast its music video tribute to Zenyatta.  She was cool and collected during the warm-up, went into the gate with ease, and then…

There was an enormous cheer as the gates opened and the mares leaped out.  I almost couldn’t hear announcer Trevor Denman!  As the field raced past us for the first time, Z was in her usual spot at the back.  Behind me, a gentleman was excitedly hollering, “that’s it, slooow it down Raphey, slow it down!” This was Rinterval’s trainer, Eric Reed.  He continued shouting as the horses galloped around the turn and into the backstretch.

As they cleared the final turn, the cheers grew even louder, to a deafening roar as Zenyatta began picking off rivals in the stretch.  Reed began pumping his fist (I know this bc he was so close I could feel it on my back!) when Z hooked up with Rinterval.  By then I couldn’t hear Trevor at all.  I was banging on the rail and stomping, yelling “GO GIRL! GO GIRL!”

She flashed under the wire a head in front of Rinterval.  Reed was still elated, despite having been defeated.  I heard him say before the crowd swallowed him up, “…seen nothing like it…”

I looked back at the stands again: the jubilant faces, the fists pumping, the cryers, the laughers, the little girls and the older men, all in love with a horse! 

Walker (my boss) motioned for me to slip under the rail and join the rest of the press corps on the track.  She made a valiant victory pass, Mike Smith beaming his dimpled smile.  I was in awe of being so close! She was barely breathing hard and there wasn’t a drop of sweat on her!

I managed to get between the press hounds and snap off a few wonderful shots as Zenyatta entered the winner’s circle for the 18th time in a row, and her 3rd time in the Hirsch.

It was a spectacular day and one that I will remember fondly for years to come.  If you ever get the chance to see Zenyatta in person, take it – you ain’t seen nothin’ like it!

QUICK PICKS:

  • As the crowds lined up outside the gates, I spent my time resetting my camera.  The day before, my photoshoot of the Queen during her morning routine went well, but when I uploaded the photos, most of them were blurry, unfocused messes! I was so disappointed!  I was determined to figure it out before the 9th race, and after a bit of fiddling I discovered the problem.  I also had 2 specific undercard races to practice.
  • The crowd clamoring for Zenyatta and her pint glasses was so large the track opened early to alleviate the craziness.  I got pulled from photos to help man a distribution booth in the clubhouse.  The only thing that went faster than the pint glasses were the plastic bags we handed out to help carry them!
  • I got a quick lunch break and then grabbed my camera for a trip to the paddock for the 3rd race.  Tom Blincoe’s Tall Texan was in, as well as Carla Gaines’s Doppio and Henry Moreno’s Party Mandate.  I have become great friends with Texan, who likes to eat butterscotch and root beer flavored hard candy.  Gaines is a fabulous trainer & nice, too, while Henry is probably the most flirtatious trainer there (but it’s all in good fun).
  • The Whitney at Saratoga went off while I was in the paddock for Tall Texan.  I watched the race on the big screen with Willie, the main paddock guard. We were both rooting for Blame, and gave high-5s when he won! As the horses exited the paddock for the race, a blonde lady in a blue blouse & sunglasses hurriedly asked me who won the Whitney.  I cheered, “Blame!” and then realized the woman was Bo Derek.
  • Great Bernardine raced for my RTIP classmates in the 5th race.  I was paddock-side for that one, too, and met trainer Mag Perez & his lovely wife, Candace, as well as P Val.  I got a pic with P Val, too, just before he got a leg up on Bernardine!
  • I was thisclose to Ken Rudolph during the Hirsch.

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Filed under Del Mar, Graded Stakes, internship, photos, polytrack, promoting racing, zenyatta

Starstruck : Zenyatta at Del Mar

Zenyatta gives me the eye at Del Mar this morning. Jerry Moss & Dottie Sheriffs in background.

Today I started at Sheriffs’s barn around 8am. Zenyatta was tucked in her stall, gazing out at the other horses coming in and out of the stable area.  John told me to come back around 9, when she would be making her appearance on-track.

I meandered over to Baffert’s barn next door, where the place was bustling with activity with nary a media person in sight.  A big chestnut horse was having his post-workout bath and I recognized him as Misremembered.  I asked his groom if I was right, and he said yes.  I snapped about 8-10 pics of him enjoying the sudsy water.  The groom then pointed out that Bob had gotten a parking ticket!  The black Range Rover was parked in front of his office, a tiny pink slip stuck under the windshield wiper!  I took a pic of that, too.  The Man himself was over at the gilley stand watching horses work and didn’t know he’d been cited*.

I then headed down to see The Pamplemousse again.  I passed Julio Canani on the way and he said, “your horse just galloped!”  I said, “You know where I’ve been this morning!” And he gave a sort of exasperated “humph” as he continued on toward the Racing Office.  The Pamplemousse was walking around the ring in between barns, as cool and collected as ever.  He really is an athletic colt and deserves to return to the level of competition he left last year.  I hope he can do it.

I hurried back toward the Z Epicenter, just in time.  There was a crowd of TV cameras, news photogs and random backstretch visitors gathered to see her.  Also, everyone in the office decided to call me at that moment to get the scoop on her activities. I felt kinda dumb talking on the phone while everybody else was awe-ing.

When she appeared from her stall, she was magnificent.  All 17-hands of muscle and bone and dark bay coat towered over her groom.  Cameras snapped and videographers jockeyed (hah!) for the best spot to capture her.

She went around the walking ring a couple of times with her exercise rider, Steve, and then headed for the track.  I stayed close on her heels as she power-walked to the gap but soon fell behind, she is a *very* fast walker!

She posed for more photos before beginning her gallop, but she kept looking off towards the other horses working as if to say, “Hurry up people, I have a workout to get to!”

She moved effortlessly over the polytrack during the gallop.  The rest of the horses and riders had cleared the track, just for her.  Sheriffs watched through binoculars with a big grin on his face.  The gilley stands were full of onlookers.  The entire executive office was a ghost town as everyone rushed down to the apron to watch her pass by.

After one lap around, Zenyatta was hardly winded and had barely broken a sweat.  That was enough for the day, however, and she exited the track to the applause of the fans.

I met her back at her barn, along with the rest of the press corps.  There, she walked the ring several laps, stopping each time to pose for us.  Her legs were hosed and washed, and then she was allowed to graze on the sod panels carfully laid in the center of the walking ring.

She reappeared later this afternoon, in the paddock before the 4th race.  I had a great spot staked out at the opening to the paddock, dead center! By that time, the sun was full out and the colors of Del Mar dazzled.  The brightest star was the big, near-black mare, ZENYATTA

*Baffert returned to his barn just as Zenyatta was getting ready to go out to the track.  By that time as well, Jerry Moss had arrived in his town car, which was parked directly behind Baffert’s. Baffert spotted the pink ticket and quipped, “Where’s his ticket?” pointing to Moss’s car. Then he took the slip off of his window and pretended to put it on Moss’s car.  Moss chuckled.  It was all in good fun, but I think most of the eyes were on Z and probably missed that exchange.

Baffert seems to be a big fan of Z, as he hung out watching her just like all the rest of us fangirls and horse geeks.

I managed to sneak into one of the photos today, too. I really was there!

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Filed under Del Mar, internship, promoting racing, zenyatta

Something Completely Different (but still involving horses!)

Last Thursday morning the track was closed for maintenance, so there were no workouts.  I saw Dan Hendricks (of Brother Derek fame) in the paddock with 2 others, but they seemed to be in a serious conversation that I didn’t want to interrupt.  I walked around to trackside and watched the tractors harrow, then got back to the paddock, hoping the trainer was done with the conversation. By the time I got back around, the trainer was gone and so were the horses who’d been schooling.

As I wandered thinking about ways to salvage my morning, I saw a lady sitting under a tree with a clay sculpture.  I walked up and overheard her telling the security guard that she did several sculptures for Breyer!

I mentioned Breyerfest and she said she was doing ComicCon instead this year.  Turns out, the sculptor in Del Mar’s paddock was none other than Sue Sifton, a favorite among Breyer collectors for her renditions of Cigar, Smarty Jones and the new Rachel Alexandra model!

We chatted a little bit and she took me back to the barns to meet “her” trainer, Paddy Gallagher.  Seems that Sue has been around the Del Mar barns studying the horses of several SoCal trainers, passed from one to the next as the older guys retired.  Gallagher was busy despite there was no training on the main track, but he took a few minutes out to meet me and to discuss the condition of the surface.

After meeting Gallagher, I took Sue to see the new PEB mural in the clubhouse.  She loved it! As we parted ways, she offered to show me around the horse country in San Diego.  Tuesday, I took her up on it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Steffen Peters, Olympic dressage medalist and his horse Ravel, whom Sue had a clay sculpture of that she took so the rider could critique its likeness.  Ravel is a handsome warmblood stallion, dark bay with a Harry Potter-esque lightning bolt on his forehead.  In a few months he will ship to Lexington for the WEG!

Next she took me to Newmarket, a spiffy hunter/jumper stable owned by CeCe Durante-Bloum, daughter of Del Mar legend Jimmy Durante (in fact, the street address of the track is Jimmy Durante Boulevard).  Most of the stalls were empty because the Del Mar horse show was on, but despite that there were still some very pretty ponies to see!

After playing fetch with a curious, overactive buckskin Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, we left Newmarket for yet another barn, this one a place I could afford on my horse budget.  There were ancient school horses, chunky stock horses and some thoroughbreds in corrals at this barn.  We stopped to do some pretty pony gazing: buckskin QH with golden tones and dark dapples on his shoulders; a big, big warmblood in bay tobiano pinto that looked like someone had dripped paint on his bay coat; and a true medicine hat paint in black with blue eyes. There were unusual black markings around his eyes that made him appear to have been decorated by tween girls with cosmetics.  In the Breyer world, this would literally be called “eyeliner” but I doubt real horse folks are familiar with that term!

Swung by the horse show grounds and the polo fields, then took a drive to Santee for DTS Tack, a cool shop with a fine selection of new Breyers as well as vintage and special run consignments! It was really cool hearing the sculpting artist talk about the Breyer world behind the scenes, too.  I saw a few very limited Breyers for the first time but they were far out of my price range!

We went back to the show grounds and wandered the barns, then went over to Mary’s Tack and Feed, *the* place in San Diego for horse equipment.  They also had a great Breyer selection and I couldn’t help but pick up a Rachel Alexandra Breyer (though it is scandalous to do so in Zenyatta territory, the Breyer Z hasn’t been released yet. I may pick up the Z at Churchill just to make it fair, hehe).

Sue is an awesome sculptor and knowledgeable horsewoman.  It was a treat to spend the day with her!

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Filed under Breyer model horses, Del Mar, Infield Trips

Survival of the Glamourous: Del Mar Opening Day 2010

CLICK ME!!  CLICK HERE!!  CLICK HERE!!!

I admit, I was kind of scared yesterday morning when I woke up and it was cloudy, cold and even drizzly outside.  Let me tell you, California has not been living up to its “sunny” reputation this summer.  I was even more glad that I had remembered to pack my black blazer when I slipped into my fabulous opening day dress, a vintage-inspired shift in Del Mar blue – sleeveless is not the way to go when the breeze is wintry.  Drizzle speckled my windshield on the drive up to the track.  I hoped for a miracle but braced for the worst.

On-track, my assignment was to photograph and document as many people, horses and sights as possible for the Opening Day social media post-a-palooza.

I went out on the apron to get shots of the place empty, and saw the brave few firsters who set up lawn chairs by the rail.  As I shivered my way down to where the starting gate was parked, I saw a guy intently watching the horses gallop for their workouts.  I stopped and asked him if any were his, and he said no, but he had a horse in a race that day.  It so happened that Rick was a partner in Joyride Stable, the partnership who owns Domonation, a 3yo colt slated to test the turf in the feature, the Oceanside Stakes.  We chatted a few minutes, but I barely got a word in edgewise. Rick was intense about his horses and hopeful of Domonation’s chances. He also had lots of praise for trainer John Sadler.

Wandered up to the clubhouse and took pics of the linen-topped tables and flowers.  Once the gates opened the walkways up there were too crowded for me to get through!

The fancy hats began arriving as soon as the gates opened, and I made a beeline for the Plaza de Mexico, where the hat contest contestants milled around posing.  It was so much fun to get pics of ladies and their fun hats, and every one of them were happy to give me all the deets: how long it took them to create their hats, how many flowers/beads/Faberge eggs were used, where they were from, how many times they’d entered…

I took several breaks throught the day to post the shots on Del Mar’s social media sites, so if you follow them on Twitter, FB or Flickr, most of the pics from opening day are mine!

I glanced at the entries a few days before and a familiar name jumped out at me: VALIANT EFFORT.

This older claimer is a big favorite of my friend Debbie in Mississippi.  She saw him on TVG a couple years back when he did some serious acrobatics in a turf race here at Del Mar.  Ever since, she has managed to keep up with him and lets me know when he runs.  I made it my mission to be in the paddock when he was being saddled to get some pictures of him for her.  As I stood snapping away, I noticed a lady next to me who was taking just as many pics as me.  I asked her if she was VE’s owner, and sure enough, she was!  Kathy was tickled to hear that someone in Mississippi, of all places, was a fan of her horse!  I wished her luck and followed the field as they walked through the clubhouse tunnel to the track.  I stationed myself at the winner’s circle “just in case” and wtched with delight as Valiant Effort stalked the pace in 3rd and then gutted out a narrow victory!

I was giddy watching the horse come back and congratulated his trainer, Ron Ellis.  Kathy came running to the winner’s circle and the entire crew just looked so happy in their official photos! As she left the winner’s circle, Kathy saw me and said it must have been some Mississippi luck!

The most thrilling race of the day had to be the 7th, where Lava Girl and Go On Babe dead-heated in a dramatic blanket finish.  Lava Girl was my rooting interest since I had seen her in the morning workouts and also visited her in her barn.  She is Lava Man’s half-sister, too!

The Oceanside Stakes was won by a Sadler horse, but it was not Domonation – Twirling Candy established himself as a serious 3yo to watch in his turf debut.  They say an NFL player was there to present the trophy, but I wouldn’t have known him.  I didn’t get any pics of him, either, because right after the Oceanside, my camera died.  I took the hint and trudged back up to the office for one last photo posting.

Then after congratulating the other interns on a great Opening Day, I sat in the parking lot for an hour as traffic knotted the roads.  I finally made it home after 9, after an intense 13-hr day of horses and gi-normous hats!

More Hi-Lites:

Snuck into the Turf Club to get some shots of the Kettle One vodka ice sculpture…

Met 3 previous winners of the Hat Contest, and picked out at least half of this year’s finalists early in the day! My favorite? The surfing horse!

TROTT rep with huge “Queen Z” hat posing for pics, with a donation, of course 😉

Getting to eat lunch with the reporters in the press box…

Weird incident before the 5th race, when scads of ladies in hats & high heels went out to the starting gate while horses were on the track.  Umm, guys, the gate crew have to wear vests around that thing, and ya’ll are in heels? Plus they stayed in the empty chutes while the horses broke for the race! YIKES

Said hi & congrats to Bob Baffert… Said hi & better luck next time to Eddie Truman, whose filly Reason to Run looked good early but couldn’t stay on at the end of the race.

Did I mention it took at HOUR to get out of the PARKING LOT??

My first Opening Day at Del Mar was Truly Fabulous!

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Filed under Del Mar, favorite races, Infield Trips, internship, photos, polytrack, Race Track Industry Program

Walk A Mile In My Shoes

The action is picking up at Del Mar as the tsunami of its 2010 meet rushes closer to the shore, to break with epic waves on July 21.  I’ve been an extra set of hands for many departments, from media to accounting to customer service.

Last week I got a tour of the beach towns near Del Mar while postering the hot spots. If you see the bright blue and yellow posters with the lady in a hat at places along Cedros Avenue, at the Highlands, or at the bar on the beach in Cardiff, I put those up!  I also left stacks of cards with the summer concert schedule around hotel lobbies, front desks and cash registers.  It was fun not having to drive to these places since I could gaze out the window along the route and not worry about rear-ending somebody on the freeway.  I also made a loooong checklist of shops and restaurants I *must* try when I get my first check.

Today was an eventful Monday – the county fair is officially gone and the transition to race meet is well underway.  My assignment for this morning was to take photos and video to show how this is progressing.  You can check the final product out here!

(I must give full credit to Andrew, who took the brilliant video of the grey chewing on the hay net.)

A thick layer of dirt was pushed into place in the paddock and along the entrance to the track with bulldozers this morning to make a cushy path for the horses.  Crews worked on the landscaping and planted more beautiful flowers around the Plaza de Mexico.  The grandstand was home to hundreds of trees awaiting placement around the apron and restaurant areas – it was like a jungle in front of the mutuel windows!

I hiked over to the infield also, to get a feel for what would normally be my home at an elite meet such as this.  The digs are pretty swanky, with a spanish-style pavillion, vegetable garden and playground on one side, and a large lake right behind the toteboard.  There was a bridge across the lake that is normally closed off by a gate- today the gate was left open for the crews working, so I took full advantage of this unique view and walked across the infield lake! Woohoo!

Behind-the-scenes fun fact: the flowers in front of the toteboard are plastic!

While discovering that piece of trivia with Meganne, I noticed some movement near the final turn.  It was a trio of horses!  I looked both ways before ducking under the rail and dashing across the turf course for a closer look.

You can see what I got in the video above.  It is too awesome standing on the rail as horses canter past, even if these were just out for a leisurely turn around the polytrack.

Later, all of us went to the backside and investigated the harrows used to maintain the synthetic surface.  The green “gallop master” is the key to the whole operation.  New track superintendent Richard Tedesco has a big job but with big toys like the gallop master it’ll be a cinch keeping the track healthy.

The only horses here right now are some trained by Richard Mandella.  A quick skip through the barn revealed Crown of Thorns, runner-up in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, among the horses vying for glory at Del Mar.  Yes, I have pictures of a lot of this stuff, but this uncertain internet connection prevents me from putting them up. YET.

Hope you enjoyed today’s walk in my shoes – tomorrow I’ll be lending a hand in the racing office & of course I’ll have all the deets in my next entry!

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Filed under Del Mar, Infield Trips, internship, polytrack, video clips