Horses, hats and hot locals in hot heat – the iconic Del Mar Thoroughbred Horse Racing season returns to San Diego, an annual display of extravagance and rush of summer thrills. This year, Opening Day falls on Thursday, July 17 and continues to impress where the turf meets the surf until September 3.
It’s the exclusive after parties that lend to Opening Day’s luster, where high-fashion and local trend-setters reign with VIP glamour among themed eats and drinks. Once you’ve made your grand appearance at the racetrack, head on over to one of these top after parties to continue the stylish celebrations.
L’Auberge Del Mar and CLUB 1540: Del Mar’s gem by the sea celebrates Opening Day with spectacular flair. This year, the after party ups the elegances with the debut of CLUB 1540, taking over KITCHEN 1540’s space for a glamorous and exclusive VIP bash. Sport your finest racetrack hat and join the chic crowd as the entire hotel transforms into a multi-level party scene, complete with live music, DJs, cocktails, culinary treats and ocean views. Inside CLUB 1540, guests can indulge in complimentary Moët & Chandon champagne from 7 to 9 p.m., special tray passed bites from Executive Chef Brandon Fortune, signature spirits, VIP service and access to the main party, plus avant-garde dancers and beats by DJ Naka G.
5 p.m. to 2 a.m. $175 per person; $200 at the door; $500 for CLUB 1540. L’Auberge Del Mar, 1540 Camino del Mar, Del Mar. (858) 259-1515 or laubergedelmar.com
Searsucker Del Mar: One thing you won’t have to gamble on: hot jams at Searsucker Del Mar. This massive Throwback Thursday party will set off with none other then founding member of Run-D.M.C. and hip-hop legend REV RUN with DJ Ruckus. A limited menu of small plates will be available for purchase in addition to festive cocktails, all to be enjoyed in your most dapper attire. Bottle service is also available for those looking to make their night more (or less) memorable.
5 p.m. to close. $65 + Searsucker Del Mar, 12995 El Camino Real, Del Mar. (858) 369-5700 or searsucker.com
CUCINA enoteca Del Mar: Debuting their first Opening Day after party, CUCINA enoteca will toast with race-inspired drinks and spoil guests with a special “Off to the Races” menu. A DJ will supply the soundtrack on the patio to keep the party going, or guests can make dinner reservations and snag a seat on the upstairs garden patio or downstairs communal area. They’ll even have an “ode to the equestrian” theme visible along the staircase with hanging, hand-selected collectible horse figurines.
5 p.m. to close. No cover. 2730 Via de la Valle, Del Mar. (858) 704-4500 or urbankitchengroup.com
Sea & Smoke: Chef Matt Gordon’s Sea & Smoke restaurant, just a few trots from the track in the Flower Hill Promenade, will host both a pre-party and post-party benefitting the Boys and Girls Club. The after party features music from local band Red Fox Tails, plus a complimentary spread of bites. Teeling whiskey shots will be up for grabs for $5, derby mules for $7 and peach smash cocktails for $9 all day, with $1 from each cocktail benefitting the Boys and Girls Club. Reservations recommended.
4 p.m. $30 per person. Sea & Smoke Del Mar, 2690 Via de la Valle, Del Mar. (858) 925-8212 or seaandsmoke.com
Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa: Riviera Magazine hosts this mid-summer soiree on Opening Day dubbed “The After Pony Party.” Glam party-goers can enjoy the resort’s 25th anniversary cocktail, The Silver Pony, complimentary along with signature bites, Skinny Suja cocktails, live music from GipsyMenco, $6 margarita bar, $3 taco bar and giveaways throughout the night.
5 to 10 p.m. Complimentary entry. (858) 759-6246 or ranchovalencia.com
VAVi Opening Day: While most are concerned about the after party, VAVi has you covered for your pre-race festivities. They’ll start the day at 10 a.m. at two locations: Typhoon Saloon in Pacific Beach and East Village Tavern and Bowl downtown. Once everyone is ready to roll, a charter bus will then pick up passengers and take them to the Del Mar Racetrack with drinks and mixers on board. From there, all VAVi guests will get VIP access to the track, plus access to “The Party” which includes private bars and food, wagering windows, restrooms, a big-screen video board and DJ. And after the races, buses will take guests to the original locations where the party continues.
10 a.m. Packages start at $69. Typhoon Saloon, 1165 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach; East Village Tavern & Bowl, 930 Market St., downtown. govavi.com
Fortune 421 at Duck Dive: DJ Travis Emmons brings the Miami heat to this after party along with Banana Club (Huy Believe, Brady Spear and Beefam), which ramps up after the races at Duck Dive in Pacific Beach with exclusive drink specials. Want to start early? A party bus will leave at noon for the tracks, and includes entrance to the Opening Day Party inside the races where beats by Beefam and Engage will boom.
Buses leave 12 p.m. After party 7 p.m. to midnight. $57.68 for Opening Day bus trip and after party; no cover for after party only. 4650 Mission Blvd., Pacific Beach. (916) 201-2966 or tixr.com/groups/421.
Need style inspiration?
Check out our guide to buying an Opening Day hat