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Opening Day Festivities Return At Del Mar Racetrack

File photo of the crowds at the Paddock Green on Opening Day, July 16, 2015.
Bradley Schweit / Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
File photo of the crowds at the Paddock Green on Opening Day, July 16, 2015.

Grab your hat and place your bets because it's opening day at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Friday.

Although COVID-19 didn’t cancel last year's races, fans couldn’t place their bets in person.

Opening Day Festivities Return At Del Mar Racetrack
Listen to this story by Tania Thorne.

This year, Del Mar is welcoming visitors again for its 82nd racing season, but only those with reservations, executive vice president for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Craig Dado said.


“We are unbelievably excited to welcome fans back this year," he said. "Now, it's not going to be a normal year, we do have COVID protocols in place that say we can only allow people in to sell out all of the seats. No walking around. Usually, we let them pack in all day long, but that's just not the case this year.”

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Seatings are available in the Grandstand, Clubhouse, Turf Club, Skyrooms Luxury and Celebrity suites, and the five major restaurants on the fairgrounds. Total seating at the tracks is 14,994.

Dado said general admission could be a possibility later in the season.

Opening Day is sold out, but the season runs through Sept. 6 so there is plenty of time for racing fans to buy a ticket.


The first race starts at 2 p.m. Fans who didn’t get a ticket can still bet and tune in online.

There won't be any concerts following the races this year, however.

Of course, the main attraction at Opening Day is the annual hat contest. The competition draws thousands of people each year, donning their flashiest outfits and finest hats.

Even if you couldn't score a ticket to opening day, you can still enter to win a share of the more than $4,000 in cash and prizes. Just submit a picture of your outfit to between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Friday to enter in one of four categories: Best Racing Theme, Most Glamorous, Best Fascinator and Best Flowers.

RELATED: Horse Injured, Euthanized After Morning Workout At Del Mar Racetrack

With several high-profile horse deaths in horseracing in recent years, the Thoroughbred Club said the Del Mar racetrack is one the safest tracks in the nation based on data released by The Jockey Club's Equine Injury Database.

There was one racing death at Del Mar in 2020, two in 2019 and three in 2018, according to the Club.

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