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  • Writer's pictureKurtney Noonan


Updated: Aug 22, 2022

“You try to do the best with what you've got and ignore everything else. That's why horses get blinders in horse racing: You look at the horse next to you, and you lose a step.” - Jimmy Lovine

I have always loved being in the middle of the action and there is nothing like the splendor of Opening Day at the world-class Del Mar Racetrack. The crowd roars with excitement, people watching is unparalleled, and the infamous Opening Day hat contest is nothing short of spectacular. Offering all the allure of old Hollywood glamour and history it’s the most magical platform to gather “where the surf meets the turf down in old del mar”. After the successful opening of the Santa Anita Park racetrack in Arcadia, California on Christmas Day 1934, William A. Quigley, stockbroker, former college football coach, and resident of La Jolla formed the idea of starting a racetrack on the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

He successfully pitched this to Bing Crosby, and together they founded the Del Mar Turf Club on May 6, 1936. Quigley would remain General Manager of the racetrack until his death at the age of 49 in 1942. 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 much written and talked about and was the first nationwide broadcast of a Thoroughbred race by NBC radio. In the race, Seabiscuit was ridden by jockey George Woolf and Ligaroti by Noel Richardson. In front of a record crowd that helped make the fledgling Del Mar race track a success, Seabiscuit won by a nose.

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