Sunday’s feature race, the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes, celebrates one of Del Mar Racetrack’s founders, the iconic American singer and actor, Bing Crosby. The photo of Crosby taking the ticket from the first fan at the turnstile on opening day embodies the very feeling of the seaside track – steeped in the history and glamour of Hollywood in its heyday.
At the start and end of each racing day at Del Mar, the track plays the famous song by Bing Crosby, prompting fans of all ages to sing along:
“There’s a smile on every face, and a winner in each race,
Where the turf meets the surf at Del Mar….”
The idea for a racetrack down the California coast from Los Angeles was hatched at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, Calif. in the 1930’s by Crosby and some of his Hollywood pals, including Pat O’Brien, Oliver Hardy and Gary Cooper. The connection between the track and Hollywood continued throughout the following decades, when racetrack appearances were common by show biz personalities like Mickey Rooney, Ava Gardner, Edward G. Robinson, Red Skelton, Jimmy Durante, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball.
The photo of Crosby on opening day in 1937 is just one of many that Del Mar has made available to racing fans. Visitors to Del Mar can step back in time just by wandering through the stands and viewing the many old black and white photos that have been enlarged and placed on the walls in a sort of informal historical gallery. There are photos of celebrities who frequented the track, as well as some of the famous horses that ran there, including Seabiscuit.
This year’s Bing Crosby Stakes at six furlongs is the ultimate mid-year indicator of west coast sprint talent. An impressive field of seven includes Smiling Tiger, winner of the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park, who was a 1-1/2 length winner of last year’s Bing Crosby.