Del Mar and the Hollywood Connection

It may be an undeniable fact that Del Mar Race Track may have a once in a lifetime opportunity to become the Saratoga of the West. It may also rise to its former glory back in the day when Bing Crosby crooned his way through the racing calendar. The reason for all the hope and glory is that Hollywood Park is set to close the end of this year. Sad but true that the relentless march of progress and business pressures takes its toll. But yet, one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor which is something to keep in mind as we head towards Kentucky Derby 2014.

Del Mar 2014

Joe Harper ought to know. He has been the chief executive at Del Mar for the last 35 years and is the grandson of Cecil B. DeMille a Hollywood icon of all icons. If his lineage speaks of anything it is pageantry and class with a good bit of elegance thrown in. Del Mar is one of the few racetracks left still feeling the glamor.

The Hollywood connection is a huge part of the history of Del Mar. Younger readers may not know who the stars were but they still know class when they see it – both in the horses and people who come dressed to the nines. It’s not the shorts and T-shirt crowd. In fact having lunch at the Del Mar Turf Club still requires semi formal dress.

When Crosby first organized the Del Mar Turf Club in 1937, the executive board included Joe E. Brown, Pat O’Brien, Charles Howard, Oliver Hardy, and Gary Cooper. The mega stars of the day like Jimmy Durante, W.C. Fields, Mickey Rooney, Ronald Reagan, and Ava Gardner would come down from Los Angeles, followed by their groupies who wanted to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous. “There’s a smile on every face, and a winner in each race,” Crosby sings, “where the turf meets the surf at Del Mar.” He personally greeted each racing fan on opening day.

One year after the gates at Del Mar opened, the famous Seabiscuit vs. Ligaroti race was held where Seabiscuit won by a nose with a much heavier rider on his back. By 1940 the Del Mar slogan became “Where the Turf Meets the Surf.” It is a beautiful track and the hope is that it will remain so for many racing seasons to come.

December 31, 2013 by : Posted in 2014 No Comments

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