Califonia Bountiful

Del Mar provides jobs, excitement for horse lovers

Every summer, thousands flock to the Del Mar racetrack in San Diego County.

Every summer, thousands flock to the Del Mar racetrack in San Diego County to catch a glimpse of some of the most powerful athletes in their field. While the horse races at Del Mar are a seasonal event, it takes a year-round effort to get the animals in tip-top shape and ensure success.

Del Mar opened its gates in 1937 with Bing Crosby on hand to greet the inaugural crowd of 15,000. The irresistible combination of sport, sun and surf attracted a who's who of entertainers to the track, hoping a bit of their star power would rub off on their appointed horse. The racetrack became a hot spot for Hollywood celebrities like Ava Gardner, Red Skeleton and W.C. Fields. The track enjoyed moderate success from its opening, but the race that really put Del Mar on the map was a race by Seabiscuit, who was pitted against the best thoroughbred of the day, Ligaroti. Seabiscuit won, set a new record for the distance in that race and thrilled a nationwide radio audience in the process.

Now, more than 60 years later, the place "where the turf meets the surf" has become one of the most popular racetracks in the country. Del Mar consistently ranks among the top tracks in the country, and attracts upwards of 30,000 people per day during its summer run.

But the work behind the scenes starts well before race day. For example, before rancher/breeder John Harris of Fresno County brings his horses to Del Mar, he and his staff spend countless hours carefully breeding and cultivating the best competitors. John says the success of his horses is determined by many factors, including having good genetics and bloodlines. Beyond that, ranchers try to ensure having the best environment, feed, veterinarians and jockeys for the horses. He says it's often the combination of luck and preparation that makes for a successful horse.

Behind the track is an amazing amount of activity, caring and preparing horses to look and feel their best. Jockeys work out as early as 4:30 in the morning to prepare for their shot at fame and fortune. Del Mar brings the best jockeys in the world, who depend on the work of horse breeders as a critical link to their fame and fortune. Jockey Corey Nakatini says, "I can't put into words how important raising good horses is to my career." Racing is the cornerstone of America's $112 billion a year horse business--the grace, power and speed of these animals is worth the commitment it takes to bring them to their moment in the sun.

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