By Ruben Davies

What’s bigger than singing about “Looking for Freedom”, suspended from a crane above the Berlin Wall in 1989?  Is there anything cooler than selling 20,000,000+ albums worldwide, including being #1 in three different countries? For Southern California, the best chance to upstage a live, in-person appearance from cultural icon David Hasselhoff was 2018’s biggest party of the year: Opening Day at Del Mar.

“The Hoff” as he is affectionately known around the world, was born in 1952 and celebrated his 66th birthday the day before the first bell of the 2018 race meet. The Urban Dictionary affectionately refers to “The Hoff” as the “most gay straight man that ever lived.” While he’s most well-known as a Baywatch lifeguard, we love him most for his theater roles.

Del Mar racetrack opened its doors for the first time in 1937 with owner and Hollywood legend, Bing Crosby personally greeting guests at the front gates. Could the legendary Hollywood crooner ever envision, “the Mayor of Funner, California” appearing at his famed track to help usher in its latest edition?

As is the case year after year, 40,000+ fans from around the globe take off from work, chores, and whatever else they had planned, to attend the biggest event on the Southern California party circuit. The date: July 18th, 2018.

Another gorgeous, sunny, low humidity San Diego beach day greeted the throngs descending from cars, trucks, limos, motorcycles, party buses, and even Amtrak’s eco-friendly Pacific Surfliner commuter train.

With the first race of the day (and just about most days) set for 2 pm PT, fans always get a solid head start on the party side of things.  Whether it’s a pre-game ritual at Red Tracton’s for bloody mary’s, or tailgating in parking lots and front yards, the taps are tilted and the pints are pouring. The third Wednesday of July means one thing at Del Mar - the biggest, best, brightest and most outlandish day of the year. It’s a day-long party that rivals anything thrown in Louisville, KY, home of the Kentucky Derby (held each year on the first Saturday in May).

By the time the horses left the starting gate for the first time, the champagne was popping and unbridled fashion was rockin.  With over $16,000,000 in wagers placed throughout the afternoon, it was clear that the pre-race bacchanalia did not slow down any of the day's attendees.

Favorites finished first or second in 6 of the days 10 races, so “chalk” players had ample opportunity to cash winning tickets.  As seems to be the standard operating procedure, the days biggest race, The Oceanside Stakes featuring an overflowing field of 14 horses, produced the biggest payouts of the day. A $2 exacta wager (first and second) wound up returning $291.80. While a $2 trifecta (first, second and third) paid the fortunate gambler $1983.60!

As it tends to be year after year, the kickoff to the Del Mar summer racing season did not disappoint. When the race day comes to a close, the town of Del Mar serves as the gracious host of myriad nightcap events. When the sun begins to set just off the final turn of the homestretch, the after parties take the reins. Lavish affairs held at the world-renowned hotels and resorts where you can "Sun,Play, Stay" otherwise known as the
Del Mar trifecta include the 2018 GayTravel Luxury Approved Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, L’Auberge Del Mar, and Inn at Rancho Santa Fe.  Guests with worldly tastes and voracious appetites for the finer things in life twirl and laugh into the wee hours of the night. When day turns to night on old Del Mar, it seems like the party might never end.

For the first time some 80 years ago, at his newly constructed racetrack on the beach, the Pacific Ocean serving as his only backup singer, Bing Crosby crooned to the patrons of Del Mar. On this opening day in the year 2018, David Hasselhoff, “The Hoff”, continued the tradition so many look forward to each year by serenading the rapt audience with these 42 words….

Where the turf meets the surf

Down at old Del Mar

Take a plane

Take a train

Take a car.

There is a smile on every face

And a winner in each race

Where the turf meets the surf

At Del Mar.

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