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Book Review

Del Mar Racetrack
by Kenneth M. Holtzclaw and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club
Arcadia Publishing, July 2006, 128 pages, softcover

Del Mar, where the surf meets the turf, is the premier summer race meet in California. This gorgeous Spanish Mission style facility is steeped in history and has hosted the best of California racing since 1937. Founded by Bing Crosby, Pat O'Brien, and Bill Quigley, it was a playground for many California celebrities as well the home of racing elites like Johnny Longden and Bill Shoemaker, even the great Seabiscuit raced there. The latest in the "Images of Sports" series takes you on a photographic tour of the history of beautiful Del Mar with over 200 vintage photographs. Written by Kenneth M. Holtzclaw with the assistance of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, this beautiful and entertaining book is a great overview of the history of the track.

Starting out in the early years when the track was being built and opening day on July 3, 1937, when Bing Crosby himself took tickets from patrons at the gate, the first chapter covers pre-World War II racing. Filled with dozens of photos of celebrities at the races, quite a few of Seabiscuit, and scenic shots of the facilities and large crowds in attendance. Everyone from Walt Disney to Greta Garbo came to Del Mar to enjoy the races, and most were quite willing to sign autographs for the fans.

Del Mar had to close from December of 1941 due to World War II, and didn't reopen until July of 1945. The second chapter covers this post-war period in the track's history and takes up to modern times, including the rebuilding of the grandstand to its current configuration. Especially interesting here are photos of Del Mar flooded in 1980, the infamous guy who ran on the track, Cigar going down in defeat to Dare and Go, and the trio of great jockeys John Longden, Bill Shoemaker, and Laffit Pincay with the plaques that were dedicated in their honor. There are of course more celebrity photos and images of famous racetrack people.

The third chapter covers the great jockey John Longden in detail from his childhood, through his record-breaking riding career, and his second career as a trainer. With may photos showing both his racing and personal life, it is a rare glimpse into the life of a racing legend.

The final two chapters cover the San Diego County Fair which is held on the Del Mar grounds and the neighboring community of Old Del Mar. Again we are treated to more historic photos of the facility and historic buildings in the area. The celebrity angle again comes into play here with Miss San Diego and Miss Fairest of the Fair of 1958, Raquel Tejada Welch, who went on to stardom after that.

Like previous entries in this series, this book is an easy read with so many photographs, but that doesn't mean you won't want to spend a lot of time looking at all the details of those images and reading the associated text. Any racing fan, but especially those who enjoy California racing, will love this book and its unique view of the history of Del Mar Racetrack.

Del Mar Racetrack has a list price of $19.99 and is available at local bookstores, independent retailers, online bookstores, or direct from Arcadia Publishing online or at 888-313-2665.

Rating:     5/5

All Book Reviews

Suffolk Downs - from the same series

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