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This year is the first time the iconic Breeders’ Cup World Championships — which temporarily fuses the worlds of fine dining, entertainment, celebrity, horses and betting — is being held at SoCal’s beloved Del Mar Racetrack, famous for being “where the turf meets the surf,” on Nov. 3 and 4. (By contrast, Santa Anita Park has hosted nine times.) This is big news for horse racing enthusiasts — and for anyone who simply likes the idea of donning a giant hat and day drinking.
For those of either persuasion, it helps to know what else there is to do beyond actually watching the nail-biting main events (which have combined purses and awards of $28 million). Confirmed celebs attending this year include Elizabeth Banks, Bo Derek and Bobby Flay, and Kate Upton was in attendance in 2016 as a Breeders’ Cup Ambassador, so anyone heading to the track is pretty much guaranteed to be in good company, especially if they’ve scored one of new luxury seating options in the trackside Chalet Village.
While at the event, there’s plenty to do, such as hang in the new private The Beach area (for just 250 people) that has actual sand, a video screen and umbrellas with casual seating. In that same area there’s a Taco & Tequila festival, too. If you can get in, start the day with trackside breakfast while the horses warm up, an offer exclusively available to VIPs and thoroughbred owners that also involves an opportunity to mingle with the jockeys.
Another invite-only affair happens Nov. 2. It’s the signature Taste of the World event, with 20 chefs representing each of the countries racing in the Cup — among them, Mary Sue Milliken for Argentina, Root & Bone’s Janine Booth for Australia, Richard Sandoval for Brazil and FIG Santa Monica’s Yousef Ghalaini for the UAE — and cooking evocative cuisine for VIPs.
The evening before (Nov. 1), L’Auberge Del Mar throws the Bing Crosby Party, complete with live music and an Off to the Races signature bourbon cocktail, heralding Opening Day, and also kicks off a Hat Pop-Up in the Living Room with Christine A. Moore Millinery, named the “official hat designer of America’s Best Racing,” and a go-to for race attendees (it goes until Nov. 3). More partying opportunities come Nov. 2 with the intimate luxury hotel’s Del Mar Traditions bash, with food pop-ups and more music, and then an Opening Day After-Party on Nov. 3 that ensures the revelry will last at least until midnight.
For a more subdued way to celebrate the occasion, the oft-awarded and extraordinarily fine Addison restaurant at the Grand Del Mar holds a Krug dinner Nov. 3. The $1,000-per-person price tag reveals the sophistication of what chef William Bradley has planned. The sure-to-be-indulgently-long evening begins with a cocktail reception and moves into rare Krug Champagne vintages before launching into a five-course journey that involves such things as caviar, white truffles, foie gras and lamb. Of course bubbles will be poured all around. (It’s also possible to book the regular four- or 10-course tasting menus that night in the elegant restaurant.)
When not drowning in champagne and caviar, racegoers can enjoy some of what makes Del Mar so attractive year round: the beach. There are miles of sand with picturesque crashing waves, as well as other natural retreats such as hiking the Torrey Pines trails or hitting the greens at the PGA-rated Torrey Pines Golf Course. With San Diego and its surroundings’ big craft beer reputation, guests might also want to check out Del Mar’s first (and new) brewery, Viewpoint Brewing Co. Even shopping (the chic boutique Gerhard) and gallery (Erik Skoldberg) opportunities come with ocean views — the perfect recipe for a winning weekend, even if you haven’t put money on it.
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