Let the good times roll. And, the horses, too.
This week, two of the world’s greatest racing venues will open their respective doors, hearts, souls and surrounding beauty for the Thoroughbred world to come, watch, play and enjoy. There is Del Mar, where the surf meets the turf to the old tune of Bing Crosby and the new sound of hoofbeats. And, there is Saratoga, the old, historic spa, where the rain shines down nearly every day but never dampens the spirit as much as it does the fickle turf course.
Opening Day is spectacular at both places. And, it signals the beginning of a new racing season when only the best should come to test their talents and try to sell their wares. At Del Mar, an opening day crowd of 40,000 sun-baked fans is expected to show up this Wednesday. Normally, it is the biggest race day of the year at the little track tucked away near San Diego on the Pacific shoreline. But this year, that title will be moved to November when the little track that could will play host to the Breeders’ Cup and a true international audience.
Still, Wednesday will be spectacular. The seven-week summertime festival of racing — which will conclude on Labor Day, Sept. 4 — will be chalk full of Stakes races and Stakes horses, many of whom will be prepping for the limelight in November. And, it won’t take long for the excitement to heat up. This Saturday, the world’s greatest racehorse — Arrogate — will make his first appearance since his mammoth closing rally to win the Dubai World Cup, when he enters the starting gate for the G2 San Diego Handicap. The meet will be highlighted by 5 G1 Stakes races, including the $1 million Pacific Classic. If all goes well on Saturday and in-between, Arrogate is expected to show up for than occasion, as well.
Joe Harper, Del Mar’s President, told The Daily Racing Form’s Steve Anderson, “I’ve given speeches sabot the greatest horse in the world running here.”
On Friday of this week, Saratoga will kick off its’ 2017 season with a pair of Graded Stakes events. There is the G3, $150,000 Schuylerville for 2YO fillies and the G3, $150,000 Lake George for 3YO turf fillies. First race post time is 1 p.m., with the gates opening at 11 a.m.
As with most days at the Old Spa, though, if you plan to attend, you better had better plan to attend early. Early enough to find a soft, green parking spot in someone’s back yard. Early enough to peddle your way over to Ciero’s for a tasty beverage (or two?) before the handicapping becomes too serious. Early enough to wander over to the front side, post up a folding chair or two, plop down a blanket and catch some of the greatest Thoroughbreds in North America stroll over to be saddled in the tree covered paddock. Early enough to place a Schilling or two (perhaps, even a quid) on your favorite steed.
The 40-day meet will include 69 stakes events worth a whopping $18.775 million in purses, and will run all the way through Labor Day, too. Racing will be held on six days a week, running Wednesdays through Mondays. In addition to the two stakes races on Friday of this week, Saturday will feature the 80th running of the G1, $500,000 Diana Stakes for fillies and mares at 11/8-miles on the turf. In addition, the G3, $150,000 Sanford, a 6F event for 2YOs will be held on Saturday. The Sunday card will feature the G1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for 3YO fillies.
The 90th running of the G1, $1.2 million Whitney will top the card on Saturday, Aug. 5 and is slated to attack one of the world’s top oder horses in trainer Steve Asmussen’s Gun Runner, who ran away with the G1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in his most recent start.
Travers Day is scheduled for Aug. 26 and it is always one of the most thrilling days of racing in North America. And, this year figures to be no different.
So, race fans, get ready for action. The sun is high in the sky, and the fun is about to begin — again.