Jay Paris: Del Mar Race Track is a horse of a different color

Jay Paris: Del Mar Race Track is a horse of a different color
Triple Crown winner American Pharoah arrives at Del Mar earlier this week. The Del Mar Race Track celebrated Opening Day on Thursday. Photo by Jay Paris

If you can read this, congratulations: you survived Del Mar Race Track’s opening day.

But if not foggy from Thursday’s festivities, you ready for the meet’s first Saturday?

Some greet summer on Memorial Day Weekend, others mark June 21, the longest day of the year, to signal summer’s arrival.

But North Countians know it’s not our favorite season until Trevor Denman, the voice of Del Mar, clears his throat for those enticing words we love to hear: “And they’re off.’’

Yes they are and take a plane, take a train or take a car to reach the iconic racing oval hugging the Pacific Ocean.

“It will be crazy,’’ Joe Harper said.

Harper, a Del Mar resident, should know. He’s the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s head honcho and through his handy work, Del Mar is a horse of different color.

While other tracks around the nation and Southern California struggle — R.I.P., Hollywood Park — patrons continue to cram into Del Mar. Thursday’s opener was expected to draw in excess of 40,000 people and some will even remember being there.

We recall when Del Mar was as popular as the Chargers’ Mark Fabiani. But Harper and his marketing crew transformed a day at the races into a party by the sea. And it’s clear it wasn’t some half-baked idea.

You’ll still see the elderly Del Mar bettors, chomping an unlit stogie and staring at the handicapper’s tips as if they were the scriptures.

But Harper decided years ago to mix some Eves with all these Adams and there’s been nothing rotten about it.

“It’s the women,’’ Harper said of Del Mar’s niche.

That’s the difference — and we can’t argue.

Harper combined folks going to the races to see the horses with those going to the races to be seen. The parade of well-dressed women — and men — sauntering through the gates is what makes Del Mar, Del Mar.

Never mind the most famous horse since Mr. Ed is lounging in stable FF. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah is chillin’ at the beach and can you blame the 3-year-old colt?

“It’s cooler here,’’ said American Pharoah’s handler, Jimmy Barnes, after the celebrated horse arrived on Tuesday from Santa Anita.

It’s doubtful American Pharoah competes next month in Del Mar’s $1 million Pacific Classic. Instead its blinders are pointed toward the Haskell at Monmouth Park, and then this fall’s Breeder’s Cup.

But take a long drink of Del Mar, with or without American Pharoah. Even if not racing, he wants to be near the action.

Del Mar’s plate is overflowing with events that have as much to do with horse racing as the Padres do with competing for a World Series. Man, if ol’ Bing Crosby could see the joint now imagine how he would swoon.

Of course the big hats dominated opening day, with $4,000 in prize money for the nicest — or most radical — one.

There are Donut Days on Saturday and Aug. 15, with Denman as the host. He delivers a behind-the-scenes peek of all things horse racing.

Jockey Photo Day is Sunday, and the riders promise not to bring their whips.

Every weekend morning breakfast is served while the ponies train on the track. And with American Pharoah working around 7:45 a.m., there’s motivation to rise early.

At any hour, good music warms the soul. Del Mar’s concert series, with many held on Friday when the first post is 4 p.m., is a hoot. Ziggy Marley holds court on Aug. 1, with Weezer winging and singing it Sept. 6.

Weezer’s encore will be less than 24 hours from the season’s final post. And we’ll shed a tear with you.

But there’s 40 days of racing, which can provide smiles and fill wallets. Of course, there’s also a loser in every race but we’ll leave that for another time.

In these parts, it’s summer time and nothing screams that like a day at Del Mar.

Contact Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.

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