THE DELIGHT THAT IS DEL MAR
By now my loyal readers have figured something out. They both know that I love the sport of Thoroughbred racing and Del Mar. Our most recent visit only solidified these thoughts but maybe not for the reasons you may think. Let me expound.
Pacific Classic day at the Seaside Oval is always something special. With a million dollars on the line in that race and two other big graded stakes races on the card (Del Mar Handicap, Del Mar Oaks), some of the sports finest on four legs were there. Of course that always makes it nice, but when you combine that with the fine fashion, superb food, beautiful people, and pristineness of the place, it is winner-winner chicken dinner. And oh…did we mention the glorious Southern California weather and waves crashing just across the Pacific Coast highway???
I think you get the picture now, but forget all that…let’s get to the real meat of this babbling. My chocolate chip cookie of a daughter made her sixth trip to the Classic on August 18. Having grown up in essence at the track, she loves the sport…or at least she better!. Now 18 and entering college as a mass communications major at MTSU, the plan was for her to assist me with some of my journalistic duties while covering this glorious event. Of course she understands the speculation on the sport is one of its finer attributes and a little skin in the game makes all the other special things about Thoroughbred racing even better. So here we go.
As the day played out she wandered with me to the window and made some donations. But now it was Classic time. A race like the Pacific Classic always carries a buzz about it that is better than a double shot of espresso. Sweaty palms and a tingling in the fingers are the norm as you squeeze that ticket a little tighter. Some of the best athletes on four legs are about to do battle and you are going to experience about two minutes of complete adrenaline rush…Yeah baby!
Thumbing through the program and with all kinds of second guessing rolling through, I babbled out my bets and exchanged greenbacks for tickets. She calmly followed behind me and spelled out her wager and asked me afterwards why I was such a spaz?…I had no answer other than “It’s the Pacific Classic darling”. So now we are off to the paddock to take pictures and be a part of the pre-race vibe. With folks everywhere, we shot a couple of quick videos and felt the mounting excitement as the “riders up” call was made and we ventured through the tunnel and towards the track. So here is where it gets really good!
Waiting at the rail with camera in hand we can both feel the excitement building as the horses make their way to the starting gates. Upon her handicapper’s advice she had placed a 10-cent superfecta box wager. That means she has to get the top four horses right and they can finish in any order. So off the runners go out of the gates and she is filming as they come down the stretch the first time. Of course we are both cheering and jeering as that is some of the fun. Race favorite Accelerate opens up on the field around the far turn and puts on a record-setting performance. As we watched the four-legged poetry in motion down the stretch we both were a bit awestruck. The post-race celebration after an event like this is usually bedlam and we both scrambled a bit as we shot pictures and just took it all in. Then suddenly the magic of Del Mar waved the wand.
Our sentimental pick was Pavel as we had visited him that morning and knew he was a horse with a real shot. He finished a very game second but was simply no match for the brilliance of Accelerate. I could see the wheels turning as she looked at the tote board to see who finished third and fourth. We had been so fixed on the first two for photographic reasons, the rest of the finish had slipped by after the 5 and 7 horses. She saw a 3 and a 4 go up and immediately started digging in her pocket. Out came a ticket with 3,4,5,7 printed proudly on it. A squeal and a smile the size of the state we were in came up and a huge high five ensued. “I just hit the super!” she laughed and we both were as giddy as a kindergartner in a candy store.
Here is the moral of the story. The ticket payout was nothing special as the winner Accelerate was 2 to 5, but the life score was huge. Being right about a forecast is always rewarding and she was beaming. Seeing that pure exuberance in her was priceless. I got one of the best high fives of my life and some moments that will last forever thanks to the magnificence of Del Mar. One of my press friends that we ran into probably said it best. “They say Thoroughbred racing frequenters aren’t wowed when they go to heaven because they have already been there.”