Del Mar is celebrating the return of horse racing with suds, fancy duds, and fare to tantalize the taste buds.
The Fall Racing Festival - slated from Nov. 9 through Dec. 2 - will host activities and promotions geared toward all ages and interests, while once again showcasing some of the sport’s elite equines in action.
“We wanted to ride the momentum of the Breeders’ Cup (World Thoroughbred Championships) that kicked off last fall, and we think the momentum will carry over to this fall meet,” said Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions. “We’re continuing with our successful events and concerts, and a couple of new events we’re really excited about.”
One that’s likely to generate buzz is the Uncorked: Derby Days Wine Fest, scheduled for Nov. 17. More than 100 wines will be available for unlimited tastings; in addition, gourmet food trucks will be on site, and entertainment will be provided by New Orleans jazz band California Feetwarmers.
Attendees are encouraged to dress as if they’re attending the Kentucky Derby or Del Mar’s summer season Opening Day, and they will have the opportunity to compete in a fashion contest for prizes.
“It (Uncorked) will kind of have a summer feel,” Bahr noted.
General admission to Uncorked is $65, which includes event access from 1 to 4 p.m., tastings, and racetrack admission and seating. VIP tickets are $75, which allow for entrance at noon, tastings of special reserve wines during the extra hour, and a handicapping tip sheet, along with all of the general admission offerings. Gourmet food truck items are not included in the price.
To buy tickets, go to www.uncorkedwinefestivals.com.
Opening Weekend kickoff
The first weekend of the Fall Racing Festival will feature the return of College Day, set for Nov. 10. Scholars will receive free racetrack admission with their student ID, along with access to the tailgating party in the Corona Beach House (formerly the Red Star Cafe), where there will be live music from Red Bull DJs, and food and drink specials.
The first of the season’s two concerts will be held after the races that day, as reggae rock band Pepper is scheduled to take the stage. As with the summer performances, entrance is free with racetrack admission before the start of the last race, or $30 afterward. Entry is restricted to ages 18 and older.
Finally, on Nov. 12, Del Mar will hold a special Veterans Day program; admission is free for active duty military and veterans with valid ID cards.
Del Mar will commence Thanksgiving week with its annual Toys for Tots Drive, held in conjunction with the U.S. Marine Corps, on Nov. 18. Patrons who bring an unwrapped toy to the Stretch Run admission gates will receive free entrance.
Meanwhile, the schedule for Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 22) is full of activities, starting early with Del Mar’s Family Mile Fun Run.
“We encourage runners to dress up in costume,” Bahr said.
Registration and pre-race activities such as games, face painting, entertainment, and holiday arts and crafts begin at 7 a.m., while the fun run starts at 8 a.m. After the fun run, Helen Woodward Animal Center will hold its Puppy Races, which highlight dogs that are available for adoption.
The Family Mile Fun Run is $12 for children and $22 for adults who register by Nov. 15; it includes free parking and racetrack admission, a T-shirt, hot chocolate and doughnuts. Go to dmtc.com.
But the action won’t stop with people and puppies that day - first post for the thoroughbreds is at a special time of 11 a.m. The first of six graded stakes races scheduled during the four-day holiday weekend - the Grade III Red Carpet Stakes - will be on the card.
If getting home in time for Thanksgiving dinner is a cause for concern, the track has a solution: A three-course feast with bottomless mimosas, Del Marys or Chandon will be served in the Turf Club for $100. RSVP at dmtc.com.
Festivities will continue Nov. 24 with Country Day, with themed decor, trick ropers and additional activities. After the races, singer Easton Corbin will perform the final concert of the fall meet.
“Country Day has done really well for us in the past,” Bahr said in reference to previous attendance.
The following afternoon, there will be a Holiday Boutique “pop-up festival,” which is new this year. Bahr described it as a spinoff of the Ladies Day held during the summer, with a mini spa and mini glam treatments. There will also be “pop-up” shops with clothes, jewelry and holiday-themed items; kids activities; and a raffle with more than $2,000 in prizes.
“After Thanksgiving is a big shopping trip weekend - it’s a great fit for that Sunday,” Bahr said.
Tickets to this invitation-only affair can be picked up at Massage Envy locations around the county.
Also on Nov. 25, racegoers can gain free entry into the seaside oval by donating nonperishable, unopened food items for the San Diego Food Bank. Collection bins will be placed outside the Stretch Run gates.
Wrapping it up
The final weekend of the Fall Racing Festival will include two Grade I races - the Hollywood Derby and the Matriarch Stakes - along with the Craft Beer Festival on Dec. 1. More than 100 local and international craft brews will be showcased, along with hard-to-find ales and ciders, and there will be a beer stein holding contest and DJs. The $22 pre-sale package includes racetrack admission, a program and tip sheet, and a wristband with five pull tabs for 7-ounce samples; go to dmtc.com.
Sunday ‘Fun’ day and other opportunities
Every week, Diamond Club members can take advantage of Free & Fun Sundays, with free admission and seats, $5 Coors Light pints and $5 Cardiff Crack Sliders. And until 2 p.m. on those days, anyone 21 and older can enjoy half-price specialty drinks.
For those who desire decadent dining, Chef Brian Malarkey will once again present Taste of the Turf Club, which is $100 per person.
Several other promotions that were popular this summer will be back, as well, such as Daybreak at Del Mar, Newcomers Seminars, Weekend Handicapping Seminars and Seniors’ Day. However, Bahr emphasized that the atmosphere of the fall meet is distinct from summer.
“If anyone hasn’t been to Del Mar (during the fall season) … it’s a whole different vibe, and we recommend trying it,” he said.
Del Mar racetrack 2018 fall season:
• Dates: Nov. 9-Dec. 2
• Location: Via de la Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard
• Post time: 12:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays; 12:30 p.m. Veterans Day Observed (Nov. 12); 11 a.m. Thanksgiving (Nov. 22)
• Admission: $6; free for children 17 and younger
• Parking: $10 General & Early Bird, $20 Valet
• Information: (858) 755-1141, www.dmtc.com