Del Mar Fairgrounds

Coordinates: 32°58′34″N 117°15′43″W / 32.97611°N 117.26194°W / 32.97611; -117.26194
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Del Mar Fairgrounds logo
Aerial view of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack looking northwest along the Pacific Ocean coastline

The Del Mar Fairgrounds is a 370-acre (1.5 km2) event venue in Del Mar, California. The annual San Diego County Fair is held here, which was called the Del Mar Fair from 1984 to 2001. In 1936, the Del Mar Racetrack was built by the Thoroughbred Club with founding member Bing Crosby providing leadership.[1]

The Fairgrounds is owned by the State of California and is managed by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, a state agency that hosts more than 300 annual events.[2] Its staff organizes four major annual events, including the annual San Diego County Fair, and runs Surfside Race Place, the year-round satellite horse racing facility. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club leases the facilities for their live meets each year. The Del Mar Fairgrounds and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club all share just one address for the entire complex, 2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd, Del Mar CA 92014.[3]


After opening of the Santa Anita Park racetrack in Arcadia, California on Christmas Day 1934, William A. Quigley, a resident of La Jolla, formed the idea of starting a racetrack on the Del Mar Fairgrounds. He pitched this to Bing Crosby, and they founded the Del Mar turf Club on May 6, 1936. Quigley was General Manager of the racetrack until his death at the age of 49 in 1942.[4][5][6] When Del Mar opened in 1937, Bing Crosby was at the gate to personally greet the fans. On August 12, 1938, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club hosted a $25,000 winner-take-all match race between Charles S. Howard's Seabiscuit and the Binglin Stable's colt, Ligaroti. In an era when horse racing ranked second in popularity with Americans to Major League Baseball, the match race was the first nationwide broadcast of a Thoroughbred race by NBC radio.[7] In the race, Seabiscuit was ridden by jockey George Woolf and Ligaroti by Noel Richardson. In front of a record crowd that helped make Del Mar race track a success, Seabiscuit won by a nose.

By 1940, Del Mar became a summer playground for many Hollywood stars. Between 1942 and 1944, the facility was closed due to the Second World War. Initially, the grounds were used for training by the United States Marine Corps, then as a manufacturing site for parts to B-17 bombers.

The first Bing Crosby Stakes was held at Del Mar in 1946 and that same year the Santa Fe Railroad began offering a racetrack special bringing spectators, bettors, and horses to Del Mar from Los Angeles.[8] Throughout the late 1940s and 1950s, the track became the Saratoga of the West for summer racing. The track had large purses for many stakes, many of which were won by the famous jockey Bill Shoemaker.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Del Mar was one of the premier racetracks in the country. The track attempted to run a fall meet in the 1960s but later canceled it after lackluster results. This allowed for the creation of the Oak Tree Racing Association at the Santa Anita race track.

In the 1980s, the infield was opened to spectators and in 1984 Trevor Denman became the voice of Del Mar.

Aerial view of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack looking northwest along the Pacific Ocean coastline.
Horses crossing the finish line at the Del Mar Racetrack

In the 1990s, the track underwent a major renovation. The grandstand of the Del Mar Fairgrounds was demolished and replaced. In 1991, the track ran its richest race to date, the $1,000,000 Grade I Pacific Classic Stakes. The first Classic was won by a top three-year-old named Best Pal.

Beginning in 2000, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club's marketing team realized they had to attract a more youthful audience as well as a female audience. They focused Del Mar as a fashionable destination, using social media and other avenues to market the racetrack. They adopted the slogan "Cool as Ever" and created a new brand around "Del Mar Scene". They also hired jockey and model Chantal Sutherland to be the new face of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.[9]

Del Mar has changeinir demographics and audience attendance.[10][11] The marketing campaign of the Del Mar Racetrack has beceen used as Stanford business study to see if their strategy could be done at other racetracks.[12]

One of the largest draws each year for the Del Mar racetrack has become Opening Day with its hats contest and parties.[13][14]

In March 2013, there was a vote to expand the turf portion of the racetrack.[15] Construction began later in the year, and the work was completed in time for the 2014 racing season. The work included widening the course to 80 feet and softening the curve coming out of the diagonal chute, thus allowing more horses to compete in turf races.[16] The following year, Del Mar renovated the main track, installing El Segundo Sand.

Starting in 2014, Del Mar began to run more racing cards due to the closure of the Hollywood Park Racetrack.[17][18] A fall meet was added, featuring the Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes, Hollywood Derby, and Matriarch Stakes. Del Mar hosted the Breeders' Cup for the first time in November 2017.

The meet in 2020 was held behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Larry Collmus temporarily replaced Denman as Voice of Del Mar after 36 years for the summer meet. Denman did return for the fall meet in November,[citation needed] and resumed calling the Del Mar races in July 2021.[19]

In 2021, fans returned.[citation needed]


There are over 300 events that take place on the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Some of the most well known include:

  • San Diego County Fair previous known as Del Mar Fair
  • Del Mar National Horse Show
  • Scream Zone
  • Holiday of Lights


The track races from July to September as well as a second meet in November through early December as of 2014. The following graded events were held at Del Mar in 2022.

Other events[edit]

  • Opening Day at Del Mar with their famous hat contest
  • Friday Night Concerts which are free with paid admission before the last race, otherwise the concerts are $30 to attend. Prepaid tickets and promotional tickets are invalid for just the concerts.
  • Family Fun Day every Saturday and Sunday where the infield offers free entertainment for kids.
  • Camp Del Mar: A Daycare center for the kids while the parents are spending the day at the track (discontinued in 2019).
  • Giveaway Days: The items vary each year what is being given away[20]


Del Mar Arena is a 3,500-seat arena in the fairgrounds complex; and it is used for sporting events, concerts, and other special events. It was built in 1991. In 2009, it was remodeled and a roof was added.

It was home of the San Diego Sockers indoor soccer team from 2009 to 2012. The Del Mar National Horse Show is hosted here.[21][22]

Exhibit facilities[edit]

Del Mar Fairgrounds features six exhibit halls totalling 219,380 square feet (20,381 m2) of space. The largest is Pat O'Brien Hall with 68,680 square feet (6,381 m2) of space, a ceiling height of 35 feet (11 m), and seating up to 6,800. Others include the 55,200-square-foot (5,130 m2) Exhibit Hall seating up to 5,500; Bing Crosby Hall with 31,900 square feet (2,960 m2) of space and seating up to 3,500; the 45-foot (14 m) Wyland Center with 30,800 square feet (2,860 m2) of space and seating up to 3,000; the 19,800-square-foot (1,840 m2) Activity Center seating up to 2,200; and Mission Tower with 13,000 square feet (1,200 m2) of space and seating up to 1,200.

Del Mar Golf Center[edit]

The Del Mar Fairgrounds includes the Del Mar Golf Center The Golf Center includes two 18 hole miniature golf courses, a driving range, the Golf Mart golf store, and offers private lessons, clinics, and classes.[23]

During peak demand periods, e.g. during the Live Races and the San Diego Fair, the driving range is used for additional parking.


Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club logo
LocationDel Mar, California
Operated byDel Mar Thoroughbred Club
Date openedJuly 3, 1937
Race typeThoroughbred
Course typeTurf, Dirt
Notable racesPacific Classic (G1)
Eddie Read Stakes (G1)
Del Mar Oaks (G1)
Bing Crosby Stakes (G1)
Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1)
Del Mar Debutante (G1)
Del Mar Futurity (G1)
Official website

The horse racing track is exactly 1 mile (1.609 km) long, and races are run counter-clockwise. With a capacity of 44,000, it is the second largest horse-racing venue in the western United States, after the nearby Santa Anita Park.[24] It is known for the slogans: "Where The Turf Meets The Surf" as well as "Cool as Ever."[25] It was built by a partnership including Bing Crosby, actors Pat O'Brien, Gary Cooper, Joe E. Brown, Charles S. Howard and Oliver Hardy. A 100-mile AAA championship Indianapolis-type car race was held at Del Mar in November 1949, but the death of popular local driver Rex Mays in that event caused "big car" racing to disappear from Southern California circuits for 18 years. (In addition, the horse racing community was deeply resentful of oil-dripping cars being run on the horse-oriented dirt racing surface.)

There was a temporary auto-racing circuit held in the race track parking lot during the mid-1960s and between 1987 and 1992. The latter hosted an IMSA Camel GT race. Both circuits were 1.600 mi (2.575 km) long with layouts that were different from each other.[26][27]

The Del Mar racetrack runs live racing from July through early September and, since 2014, a second live meet is run in November.[28][29] A satellite wagering facility operates during the other months of the year. Larry Collmus temporarily replaced Trevor Denman in 2020 after 36 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic; Denman returned to announcing at Del Mar in July 2021.[19]

Race Lap Records[edit]

Category Time Driver Vehicle Date
IMSA Grand Prix Circuit: 2.575 km (1987–1992)
GTP 1:00.334[30] Juan Manuel Fangio II Eagle MkIII 1992 Vons Grand Prix of San Diego
GTP Lights 1:06.390[30] Dan Marvin Spice SE91P 1992 Vons Grand Prix of San Diego
GTO 1:07.768[31] Robby Gordon Ford Mustang 1992 Vons Grand Prix of San Diego
GTU 1:13.402[32] John Fergus Dodge Daytona 1991 Camel Grand Prix of Greater San Diego
AAC 1:13.829[32] Steve Anderson Pontiac Firebird 1991 Camel Grand Prix of Greater San Diego
Original Grand Prix Circuit: 2.575 km (1958–1964)
Group 4 1:07.200[33] Frank Monise Lotus 23B 1964 S.C.C.A. Divisional Del Mar
Group 3 1:09.500[34] Scooter Patrick
Don Hulette
Adam-Mitchell Porsche Special
Jaguar Special-Chevrolet[35][36][37]
1961 Pacific Coast Championship Sports Car Road Races Del Mar

Physical attributes[edit]

The track has a one-mile oval with chutes for 7/8 and 1+14-mile races and a seven-eighths mile oval with a diagonal straightaway chute for 1 1/16 and 1 1/8 mile races on the turf course. The turf is a mixture of Common Bermuda and Hybrid Bermuda (GN-1). The track hosts live racing for two seasons each year at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and can stable more than two thousand horses. Del Mar is known for its tan stucco grandstand located in close proximity to the Pacific Ocean.[38]

In early 2007, Del Mar became the second track in Southern California to install a synthetic surface and the first to install a Polytrack brand surface [39] for a price of approximately $9 million. However, in February 2014 Del Mar president Joe Harper announced his intention to return to a dirt surface for the 2015 racing season.[40] Harper cited a lack of synthetic surfaces in Southern California as the reason for the switch. At the time, both Santa Anita Park and Hollywood Park had both experimented with a synthetic surface but then reverted to dirt.

Panoramic view of the Del Mar Racetrack from the grandstand

TV personalities[edit]

  • Ernie Myers
  • Jon Lies (2007–present)
  • Bob Ike (?–present)
  • Mike Willman (?-2006 full-time, 2007–2009 part-time)

Premium clubs[edit]

The Turf Club

The Turf Club is the Premium Club of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. You must be a member, or a guest of a member, to visit the Turf Club. A buttoned up shirt and jacket are required attire for men.

The Saddle Club

The Saddle Club is the Premium Club of Surfside Race Place. Anybody may visit for a daily fee. There is no required dress code.

The two clubs have no relation to one another. Membership in one doesn't grant access to the other one.

Satellite wagering[edit]

Picture of Surfside Race Place
Inside view of one of the rooms at Surfside Raceplace satellite wagering facility and sports bar of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Surfside Race Place is located on the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The off-track betting facility is open during the off-season of the Del Mar Racetrack live meets.

It has been used for handicapping contests[41][42] as well as handicapping seminars. The 2014 Handicapper of the year Jose Arias qualified and won here. His check at the end was $750,000.[43][44]

Patrons of the Surfside Race Place sports bar can view, and bet on, horse races televised via satellite from around the country, such as Aqueduct, Arlington Park, Belmont Park, Calder, Cal Expo Harness, Churchill Downs, Delaware Park, Ellis Park, Fair Grounds, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Hastings, Hawthorne, Kentucky Downs, Laurel Park, Los Alamitos, Meadowlands, Monmouth Park, Oaklawn Park, Pimlico, Remington, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga, Sunland Park, Turfway Park, Victoria Race Tracks, and Woodbine; high-stakes races such as the Dubai World Cup; and Grade 1 races such as the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes which constitute the Triple Crown.[45]

Surfside Race Place currently offers Bingo on Sundays.[46]

Del Mar Horsepark[edit]

Del Mar Horsepark is a 65 acres (26 ha) equestrian facility located 3 miles (4.8 km) east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The park offers:[47]

  • Two grass jumping stadiums with seating for 1,320
  • Covered and lighted arena
  • Four show rings
  • 400 permanent show stalls
  • Dressage ring
  • Four training rings

During the San Diego Fair the Del Mar Horsepark offers free parking for the fairgrounds patrons with free shuttle service to the fairgrounds.[48]

Del Mar Municipal Airport[edit]

In the 1920s, the United States Navy built the San Dieguito Air Field on the wetlands between the San Dieguito River, the Del Mar Racetrack, and the area where Interstate 5 now runs.[49] In 1938, the airfield was turned over to civilian control and became the Del Mar Municipal Airport.[49] It served the patrons at the new Del Mar Fairgrounds. During World War II, the navy took control of the airfield, establishing U.S. Naval Air Facility Del Mar, a base for blimps to patrol the West Coast.[50] After the war, the field was decommissioned and returned to the State of California. In 1959, the state closed the airport and the land was used for the construction of Interstate 5.[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History: 1936 — A Permanent Home for the Fair". Del Mar Fairgrounds. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  2. ^ Horn, Jonathan (February 7, 2011). "Del Mar council approves preliminary fairgrounds governance model". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  3. ^ "About Us". Del Mar Fairgrounds. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  4. ^ Amy Williams, The Del Mar Race Track 75 Years of Turf and Surf, in The Journal of San Diego History 58:3, Summer 2012
  5. ^ Jörgen Nilsson and Amanda Duckworth, Where the Turf meets the Surf, in Gallop Magazine, 2018 (?)
  6. ^ Obituary for William Quigley in the Daily News from New York, New York, of March 25, 1942
  7. ^ "Del Mar Times". Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  8. ^ Rosen, Michael M. (February 8, 2013). "Del Mar rail station's big 'if'". U-T San Diego.
  9. ^ Chantal Sutherland face of Del Mar Archived 2014-01-15 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "InformationWeek, serving the information needs of the Business Technology Community". InformationWeek. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  11. ^ "/ Del Mar Race track marketing". Archived from the original on 2014-10-21. Retrieved 2019-03-26.
  12. ^ "Del Mar Racetrack, Reinventing the Horse Racing Fan Experience". Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  13. ^ Sondheimer, Eric (17 July 2013). "Opening day at Del Mar racetrack and there's a party going on". Retrieved 16 April 2018 – via LA Times.
  14. ^ "Style and Studs - Opening Day at the Del Mar Race Track". 17 July 2013. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  15. ^ "Del Mar Racetrack expansion". Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  16. ^ Williams, Gene (2013-08-16). "A Wider, Better Turf Course Is Coming Soon To Del Mar" (Press release). Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Retrieved 2014-02-19.
  17. ^ LaMarra, Tom (May 9, 2013). "Hollywood Park to Close in December". The BloodHorse. Retrieved May 10, 2013.
  18. ^ "Del Mar racetrack considers additional months". Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  19. ^ a b Posner, Jay (June 5, 2021). "Trevor Denman returning to Del Mar for 2021 horse racing seasons". Del Mar Times. Archived from the original on 2021-06-06. Retrieved August 28, 2021.
  20. ^ "Mar Race track entertainment". Retrieved 16 April 2018.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Del Mar Horse Show
  22. ^ "Home".
  23. ^ "Del Mar Golf Center". Archived from the original on 2013-04-12. Retrieved 2013-02-15.
  24. ^ List of horse racing venues by capacity
  25. ^ "Cool As Ever Campaign". Archived from the original on 28 July 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  26. ^ Del Mar IMSA GTO footage (Video). YouTube. May 14, 2007. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  27. ^ Del Mar
  28. ^ Del Mar Racetrack
  29. ^[bare URL]
  30. ^ a b "2 h Del Mar 1992". Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  31. ^ "1 h Del Mar 1992". Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  32. ^ a b "Del Mar 1 Hour IMSA GT 1991". Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  33. ^ "SCCA Divisional Del Mar [CM+DM+EM+FM+GM] 1964". Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  34. ^ "Pacific Coast Championship Sports Car Road Races Del Mar". Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  35. ^ "Don Hulette". Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  36. ^ "Corvette Special Cotati". Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  37. ^ "Jaguar Special - Photo Gallery". Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  38. ^ 2012 Del Mar Media cGuide Archived 2011-11-05 at the Wayback Machine
  39. ^ "Del Mar Polytrack passes test - Daily Racing Form". Retrieved 16 April 2018.
  40. ^ Anderson, Steve (February 18, 2014). "Del Mar plans to install dirt track for 2015". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
  41. ^ "Streiff Wins National Handicapping Tour". Blood-Horse. January 10, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  42. ^ Tuley, Dave (December 20, 2010). "National Handicapping Tour leader tries to maintain slim advantage over two rivals". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  43. ^ Zweig, Linda (January 31, 2014). "Surfside Race Place home to 2014 Handicapper of the Year!". Del Mar Fairgrounds (Press release). Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  44. ^ Dempsey, Michael (January 21, 2013). "Surfside Race Place Site for 2.75 Million Handicapping Contest". Bleacher Report. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  45. ^ Shown Race Tracks[permanent dead link]
  46. ^ "Del Mar: Charitable bingo games begin at fairgrounds". Del Mar Times. 2013-04-13. Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  47. ^ "Horsepark". Del Mar Fairgrounds. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  48. ^ "Mar Fairgrounds Free Parking at Horsepark". Archived from the original on 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2013-06-25.
  49. ^ a b c Griffith, John T. (2013-01-23). "Del Mar Racetrack's long lost airport". San Diego Reader. Retrieved 2013-01-27.
  50. ^ "U.S. Naval Activities World War II by State". Patrick Clancey. Retrieved March 19, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

32°58′34″N 117°15′43″W / 32.97611°N 117.26194°W / 32.97611; -117.26194