Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Opening Day at Del Mar

The hats of Del Mar
Photo from Del Mar, one of many posted to Flickr through the day.

The Los Angeles Times sets the scene:

They came by cars, limos, trains and planes. Ladies wore hats so brash and colorful that strangers stopped to take photos. Men dressed in white suits and carrying drinks gawked and prowled. It was an atmosphere worthy of a Hollywood premiere.

A record crowd of 45,309 caught two notable performances (charts). In the seventh, Lava Girl, making her debut, breaking from post 11, and the longest shot on the board at 32-1, finished in a dead heat with Go On Babe. The 3-year-old Purge filly is a half-sibling to retired star Lava Man and trained by Doug O’Neill. In the Oceanside Stakes, Twirling Candy, trying turf and two turns for the first time, scored a 2 1/4-length win over pacesetter Macias, running the final quarter in :22.83 (the final furlong in 11:54):

Left at the Gate has more on the undefeated John Sadler trainee, including speculation that he might head to Saratoga for the Travers. (Very interesting. If he were to run, Twirling Candy could join the Omnisurface Stars roster.)

And what about the Polytrack? “The talk has been upbeat,” reported the Union-Tribune on the eve of the opener. Trainer Bob Baffert commented on Facebook, “Track still not to my liking even though we won a race. Hopefully it will tighten down more the next few days.” But other trainers praised the surface: “Hats off to [new track superintendent] Richard Tedesco,” said Doug O’Neill. “It looked like it was pretty fair,” observed John Sadler. So it did, with one winner wire-to-wire, a few off the pace, and a couple closers.

But, wait … the Paulick Report is out with a story this morning that all may not be well. “Del Mar’s Polytrack surface was closed early Thursday morning … because of concerns over the condition of the track.” Developing?

7/23/10 Addendum: Trainer Bruce Headley says two of his horses were injured training on the track. “I was scared to death to run them.”