Del Mar Racetrack
Survival Guide

Thursday July 17, 2014 thru Wednesday Sept 3, 2014
Races on Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, & Sun

Have you ever been to the races? If no, then you should head over to the Del Mar Racetrack and enjoy a day at the races! this is definitely where the "Turf Meets the Surf"!

There's much to learn when it comes to horse racing: who to bet on, how to bet, what to wear; the terminology itself is daunting. However; life need not be complicated, just arrive at the racetracks as a casual observer and have a good time. You will be swept away by the excitement!

This page is divided into sections:
  1. Getting there. Layout of the Racetrack
  2. What to Expect
  2. How to Place a Bet
  3. How to Read the Program

Getting There

Really, the hardest part is getting there. The Del Mar racetrack is quite large and attracts over 45,000 visitors during Opening Day; if you have never been to the Races, you will be overwhelmed.

So let's start at the beginning. Take highway 5 and look for the signs for Del Mar Racetracks. Don't be disheartened if you hit traffic, the exit ramp is always backed-up when there is an event ongoing at the Del Mar fairgrounds.

Follow the crowds and you will eventually end on Jimmy Durante Blvd. Take a right into the main parking lot (P). Parking is $10 (cash only). Follow the instructions from the parking facilitators and get yourself a parking spot. From here, you will walk towards the main entrance (the main entrance has a statue of Don Diego in front). If you are parked at another lot, there are shuttles that will give you a ride to the front gates. Remember where you parked!

del mar racetrack
Aerial view of Del Mar Fairgrounds. P = parking; E = main entrance

Depending on what event you are going to, you may have to pay at the front gates (E) or you may have to pay a little further along. For example, you need to pay at the front gates if you are attending the San Diego County Fair. For the Races, you pay further ahead at the Infield Stretch Run Entrance (arrow head).

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Ticket windows at Stretch Run Entry
del mar racetrack

Price of admission varies from $4 to $70 depending if you are going for "General Admission" or "Clubhouse Admission". Price also changes depending on what day of the week you go. For $250, you get a table for 4 with dinner. Prices vary tremendously depending on what you want.

Let's make it easy: general admission to the Del Mar Racetrack is $6 everyday except on the opening day which is $10. People on activity duty, and people under 17 years old enter for free (with paid adult).

When paying, be sure to ask the lady at the window for a program. You may be entering the fairgrounds for other events so s/he may not know to give you the Racing Program. The program lists the time each race will begin, the cost per bet, the line up of the horses, the colors of the jockeys, and more (learn how to read the program here). You will be lost without a program so be sure to get one (they are only issued at the ticket window, so if you forget, you have to walk back to ask for one).

del mar racetrack
Plaza de Mexico with central water fountain.
After you pay, you will enter a small plaza with a water fountain - this is the Plaza de Mexico. Sometimes there are bands playing, street entertainers, and props suitable for photos.

Walk past the water fountain towards the back left. Go through the archway and enter a building called the Stretch Run. If you walk straight across, you will see the racetrack and get to the grand stand.

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Grand Stands at Del Mar Racetrack
You can use the elevators to go up a few levels, you can buy food, place bets, or use the bathrooms. It's a pretty busy building.

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Infield Tunnel.
If you veer towards the left instead of going straight through, you will eventually enter the Infield Tunnel. This underground tunnel takes you to the grassy area at the center of the racetrack. It is daunting to realize that you are actually walking under the racetrack!

Once you've gone this far, you are pretty much in. You can grab a spot along the fence and wait for the races to begin. Take note of the finish line, the best area is probably near number 6 on map below. If you can't get a good spot, fear not, there is a large screen TV set-up within the infield. Indeed, sometimes it's actually better to watch the race through the screen because they have close-ups, play-back, stats, and commentary.

The Pacific Pavilion (#7) is located in the Infield. You can rent out a section of the Pavilion for large groups such as corporate event, bday party etc. The best part is that if you rent a section of the Pacific Pavilion, they will name one of the races after your group. For example, one of the races could be called "Qualcomm" or "Joe & Friends".

del mar racetrack
1: paddock
2: Stretch Run Entrance, ticket windows for entry
3: Archway to grand stands
4: Grand stands
5: Infield Tunnel
6: Best viewing areas in Infield
7: Pacific Pavilion: available for rent to large groups
8: Family Fun events

What to Expect

Now that you are finally in the Del Mar racetrack, what are you supposed to do? Well, different people do different things.

How to Bet: You can gamble by placing a bet as to which horse crosses the finish line first. Bets are cheap: about $2. There are different types of bets, some will give you better returns. The straight bets (Win, Place, or Show) allows you to win a few dollars ($3 to $5).

For example: if you place a $2 bet on a horse and the horse wins, and the win price is $5, then your overall gain is $3:
  = ($5 win prize) - ($2 wager)
  = $3
On the other hand, had you bet $10, then your overall gain would have been $15:
  = (10 ÷ 2) x ($5 win prize) - ($10 wager)
  = 5 x $5 - $10
  = $25 - $10
  = $15
More info on how to bet here.

The exotic bets are more complicated but you can win more per bet. Bets can be made at the window at the Del Mar racetrack in which case you can speak to a teller or use a SAM (touch-screen machine). Interestingly, you can also place bets over the internet or over the phone. See here for more info regarding off-site betting.

What to Wear: For ladies and gentlemen, you can dress up and look fabulous for this "Sport of Kings". Men come in slacks, a light shirt, and a jacket. Ladies wear high heels, a sundress and an elaborate hat; this is true for all days, but especially so during Opening Day when they have the "The One and Only Truly Fabulous Hats Contest".

But that's for the people who want to dress to impress. For everybody else, you are welcome to come in a t-shirt and shorts. Casual and comfortable is important since you will be in the hot sun for 3+ hours.

Ladies take note, it is going to be a long day of fun in the sun, be sure wear (or bring) comfortable shoes so you can make it back to your car. Men, take note: some fancy restaurants (example, the Turf Club) have a dress code: a suit or sport jacket must be worn at all times.

What/Where to Eat: Food concession stands are scattered through out the facility. Choices include sausages, hot dogs, corn dogs, burger & fries, fish & chips, sandwiches, fried chicken, and the like. If you are invited for a corporate event, your company may provide catered food.

There are a handful of sit-down restaurants. Some require advanced reservations, some have enforced dress code, and some are for groups of 4 or more people.

 - Stretch Run Grill: 1st Floor Stretch Run, Reservations required
 - Red Star Cafe at O'Brien's Pub: 2nd Floor Stretch Run
 - Cafe del Sol Restaurant: 1st Floor Clubhouse, Reservations required
 - Veranda Cafe: 2nd Floor Clubhouse,  - Clubhouse Terrace Restaurant: 2nd Floor Clubhouse, Reservations required
 - Turf Club Tables: 5th Floor Clubhouse, dress code enforced, Reservations req.
 - Il Palio Restaurant: Penthouse Level Clubhouse, group reservations req

You can also bring your own food, but you cannot bring your own alcoholic beverages. For that, you must purchase the drinks at the Del Mar racetrack. There is a lot of liquor / beer flowing at the racetracks. The hot sun, the excitement of the races, and the easy access of alcohol can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Be aware of this if you intend to bring children to the event.

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Tables and chairs at the Pacific Pavilion.
del mar racetrack
Alcoholic drinks served here.

Paddock and Family Fun Days:

The paddock is a separate enclosure where the horses are brought out, saddled, and paraded before the race begins. This is your chance to take a peek at the horses and the jockeys to help you decide who to bet on. Are the horses calm or jumpy? Do the jockeys look confident? What colors are they wearing? This is the place to get excited before the races begin.

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Aerial view of paddock.
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Jockey and their horses in paddock.

Del Mar racetrack has tried to make the event more family friendly by providing activities suitable for children. For select weekends the Infield has a section devoted to family fun. Activities are free with with paid admission. Expect to find face painting, bouncy-jumps, giant slides, and pony rides.

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Del Mar racetrack mascot "PonyBoy"

For 2014, Del Mar Racetrack will have over 43 stake races in a period of 36 days.

Races are scheduled on Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, and Sundays. Labors day (Sept 1, 2014) is the only Monday which hosts races.

Opening day: Thursday July 17, 2014
Last day: Wednesday Sept 3, 2014

Del Mar Racetrack
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd
Del Mar, CA 92014
(858) 755-1141, or (858) 793-5533

  • go to Del Mar racetrack: how to place bets
  • go to Del Mar racetrack: how to read the program
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