“Where the surf meets the turf at Del Mar!” That is how the old Bing Crosby song goes and it plays in my head every time we drive past the seaside racetrack.
We have been driving past for 38 years since I actually went inside the grounds.
I spent many,many happy hours there as a kid,picking up “losers” (betting slips that people tossed to the ground after they lost the race) for their brightly colored paper and hanging on the rail watching the giant race horses thunder past me only a few feet away.
My Dad and his friends would often haul me along with them to the track and after we arrived I was pretty much set free to roam all day. It would be considered neglect now days but it was just glorious freedom to play then!
If I wanted them I went to look for them and if I had a problem or ever felt lost I went to the guard under the central tote board who took me to my Dad right away! I should add that my Dad was a groom in his late teens and twenties and his friends were owners and trainers including Eddie Gould who was training a big horse called BIGGS back then. Biggs was the only race horse I was ever allowed to touch,apparently he was not too high strung and not a biter.
I used to love wandering the track and sometimes through the paddocks in the early morning before the general public arrived. Just the real rail-birds and horse people were there,getting the morning line on the workouts and walking the horses around with their companions.
A lot of homes have been built across from the track at Del Mar,an entire fairgrounds has been built around it and a couple of fresh coats of paint and stucco have been applied since the last time I was there around 1970/71.I thought it might have changed but,once inside the hallway and walking out into the coastal California sunshine I looked out at the same track I remembered from so long ago.
I could smell the fresh grassy infield,the well groomed ,chunky dark earth track before it and the cool dark of the cement entry hall behind me.
I walked down to the rail and leaned my chin on my arms . This photo is the view of the homestretch as I saw it , empty now but filled with Throughbreds trampling the track like an earthquake rolling by in my minds eye.
Oh yeah, we were there for the Goodguys Carshow !
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