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Del Mar Racetrack and others looking to foster a more family friendly image

Patrons enjoying live music with the horse racing at Del Mar
Patrons enjoying live music with the horse racing at Del Mar
Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

When you think of a horse-racing track, what images come to mind? Most likely, images of old men drinking and smoking cigars, tearing up betting slips and cursing to no end. Not exactly a place you want to bring the wife and kids for a weekend outing, right? Well, there are a couple tracks in California that are working hard to provide an atmosphere that the whole family can enjoy.

The venue leading this charge is the Del Mar Racetrack. The well known track has been a staple in California horse racing for close to 80 years. First opening their doors in 1936, with the "backing of celebrities such as Bing Crosby, Pat O’Brien, and Lucy and Desi Arnaz, the Del Mar Turf Club (as it had become known) became the hottest ticket of the summer season on the west coast." (Source:

The turn of the century saw crowds at other tracks nationwide slide downward, and the age of the average patrons grow. Eager to combat this trend, Del Mar’s marketing team looked for new, fresh ideas to attract more young people as well as females. As it turns out, research conducted showed that the youthful audience Del Mar sought after didn’t really care about horse racing. In order to get them to the track, they began reaching out to audiences on various social media platforms and promoting the venues’ ideal location (located right off the Pacific Ocean in San Diego) and other track activities like concerts and events.

To say the strategy was a success is an understatement. According to a recent article published in the LA times, “Until the past two years, the track had set records for attendance eight years in a row. It hasn't had an opening crowd under 40,000 in a decade — [This year’s] attendance was 42,021. The handle, including off-track, was $14,858,277. Joe Harper, the track's president and chief executive, said it attracts a higher percentage of female patrons than any track in the country.” Speaking with the author of the article, a track patron and winner of the “Best Hat” contest spoke in jest to the amount of other activities people can enjoy at Del Mar, saying “They have horse races? Who Knew?” (1)

Throughout California, tracks are taking notice and expanding track festivities to appeal to a broader audience. Arcadia’s Santa Anita Racetrack regularly hosts the California Philharmonic Orchestra, who in fact will be performing their Magic, Fantasy & Adventure concert this Saturday. Each concert includes a plethora of “other amenities, [including] a private BBQ pit, visit full bars on site and partake in a variety of pre-concert family friendly activities and live jazz.” (2)

These instances just go to show you that an afternoon at the racetrack is turning into a viable option for people who are not necessarily invested in horse racing. Don’t count venues like these out next time you are planning an outing for family and friends!

(1) Zach Helfand, "Del Mar opens, and horse racing is just part of the party" LA Times,

(2) California Philharmonic Orchestra, "Santa Anita Race Track",

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