There's a certain buzz this time of year in San Diego. I don't know how much it has to do with the ponies at Del Mar, but I'd guess that's definitely a part of it.
I'm going to admit right now that I've never been to opening day at the track. I mean, c'mon, we all know it's not my style to wear 'pumps' and act all high-falootin at any event, ever, but it still gets me excited. Back in the day (like the 1950s), my grandpa used to raise and run horses at Agua Caliente. He was a farmer through and through, always in a long sleeve khaki shirt with rugged khaki bottoms. His hands and face were weathered from being on his land, growing numerous crops, but in my lifetime, cutting back to watermelon and sweet white corn. I've yet to ever taste watermelon or corn as sweet as my Tata's- but when we'd go to the races- my grandpa pimped out.
It was those weekends that he lived for. Sometimes we'd head down to Tijuana to watch the ponies run; he taught me how to handicap (though choosing "the pretty outfit" seems to have just as much luck when it comes to me betting). On really special weekends, however, we'd go to Del Mar- way before it was the yuppy hotspot and that grandstand didn't exist- and we'd pack our coolers and head to the infield to hang out, enjoy the sun, and watch the races.
Even when he was in his late 70s, he never bet on a horse unless he saw their mannerisms and behavior in the paddock. So as soon as one race ended- which we'd watch from the infield finish line, just to the left of the main handicap board- we'd haul ass through the tunnel to go see the horses as they pranced around the paddock. I had a few favorite jockeys- Chris McCarron, Alex Solis, and Gary Stevens- but he always knew which horses to bet on.
So, while I might not be at opening day, there's something in the spirit of the track that always takes me back to the days when my Tata would actually shave, put on his dress clothes and boots, slap on a gallon of Old Spice, and try and teach his granddaughter about the beauty of horseracing. That said, I welcome another season of horseracing where the turf meets the surf.
what a great tribute to your grandfather. :)
p.s. you're not missing anything for not going to opening day. it's such a clusterfiesta. much better to go on an "off" day.
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