Del Mar Race Course opens July 15

Del Mar trackDel Mar Thoroughbred Club’s opening day is Friday, July 15, 2016.

An on-track crowd in the 40,000 range – where Del Mar has roamed for the last 11 Opening Days – is anticipated for the first Friday summer opener in 46 years. First post will be 2 p.m.

The traditional Opening Day feature, the $100,000 Oceanside, is the first of 43 stakes with combined purses totaling $7.55 million during the 39-day meeting, which closes on Labor Day, September 5. Horse Racing will be conducted five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday. The track will be dark on Monday and Tuesday with the exception of Closing Day, Labor Day Monday.

Two champions — Hall of Fame-bound horses California Chrome and Beholder — headline the more than 2,000 runners for the meet.

The Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap on Saturday, July 23 is the target for California Chrome. The California-bred was 2014’s Horse of the Year in a 3-year-old season that saw him win six stakes including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

The strapping mare Beholder is being aimed for the Grade I $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes on Saturday, July 30.

Both Beholder and California Chrome could wind up in the TVG Pacific Classic, making it potentially an event of global magnitude in the sport.

Gates open Friday at 11:30 a.m. and all racing fans are encouraged to use public transportation and come on board early for an event that has become one of the biggest summer parties in Southern California. Del Mar’s parking lots are expected to be filled to capacity and the track has added a special parking arrangement in an attempt to ease some of the anticipated pressure. More than 1,100 parking spots have been reserved at the HorsePark facility, which is just 1.8 miles to the east of the racetrack on Via de la Valle. Parking at the site will be free (general parking at the racetrack is $10) and shuttle busses will run constantly throughout the day to ferry racing fans to and from the track.