Del Mar Race Track heads to the starting gate
DEL MAR ---- There was a sense of calm surrounding the Del Mar Race Track on Tuesday.
That aura will be decidedly different Wednesday.
The 69th thoroughbred meeting will get under way at 2 p.m. Wednesday when the horses break from the starting gate and fans in their opening hat-day best let out a collective yell.
It would have been hard to predict everything would be ready just nine days ago.
That's when the San Diego County Fair ended and track personnel had one of their shortest turnaround periods to get prepared for the horses ---- most of them coming from the Los Angeles area ---- for their 43-day annual get-together at the seaside track.
"Nobody will notice a thing on Wednesday," said Robert Sanchez, plant superintendent. "We're doing painting. We're doing planting. You name it, we're doing it."
When the fair closed July 6, Sanchez's main goal was to ready the barn area to receive horses 48 hours later. The horse vans were lined up outside the track at midnight June 9, and it was business as usual. The horses were put in their stalls and morning workouts began on Thursday. There has been a steady stream of horse vans arriving at the track ever since.
"It was actually easier than I thought it was going to be," Sanchez said, "but we're not there yet. Knock on wood, I think we'll be fine."
That sort of optimism pleases track president Joe Harper, who has plenty of other things to worry about this year. Soaring gas prices, the faltering economy and his $9 million Polytrack racing surface, which was installed before the start of last year's meet and received mixed reviews, all are areas of concern.
"I figure we'll lose a few (fans) from L.A. and pick up a few from San Diego," said Harper. "We just have to wait and see. Judging by what I saw at the fair, they did well when there was perceived value or discount. We'll be pushing our discount admissions (Diamond Club) and happy hours. We're positioned as well as we can be in this economy."