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Del Mar Vs. Saratoga – The Official Scorecard

delmarsat

 

Ok for horse racing degenerates everywhere there is one summertime debate that tops them all. Del Mar vs. Saratoga. West Coat people always say Del Mar is better and East Coast people always say Saratoga. However I feel like few people actually have been to both tracks so this past weekend I finally bit the bullet and went to Del Mar for opening weekend so I could be the definitive voice on what was the better overall experience. Here are my findings.

 

1. Love of Horse Racing/Atmosphere

Saratoga in a massacre. If you actually love horses and horse racing you have to be at Saratoga. You feel it the second you drive into town. It’s everywhere. The city lives and breathes horse racing. You go to breakfast and everybody has the DRF. You got to dinner and everybody is talking about the races. It’s everywhere. There is nobody is in Saratoga in August who doesn’t love Horse Racing. Del Mar is the exact opposite. You walk around town and it feels like a surf community. People coming and going from the beach. If you didn’t know Del Mar race track was there you may not even know it’s a horse racing town.  When you’re in the track you get the feeling that people at Saratoga would rather be no place else and have been looking forward to coming for weeks.   At Del Mar it’s just another day on their social calender that will come and go.

 

Advantage – Saratoga

 

2. The Physical Track Itself

Saratoga in a massacre. Again there is just no comparison. Del Mar is nice. I have nothing really bad to say about it, but I didn’t walk away thinking it was unusually special or unique. Saratoga is like no other track on the planet. The picnic tables, the atmosophere, the grandstand etc. You feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a degree. Del Mar just feels like a nice race track but not a bucket list type place.

 

Advantage – Saratoga

 

3. Girls

Gotta give it to Del Mar here. Smokes EVERYWHERE. I’m not sure some of them even knew how to spell the word horse, but if you’re there just to see hot chicks Del Mar is the place. I guess that’s what happens when you’re 20 minutes outside of SD as opposed to the Adirondack Mountains.

 

Advantage – Del Mar

 

4. Nightlife

Again Saratoga in a massacre. Now there is obviously a caveat here. San Diego is 20 minutes away. I went to a Padres game one night and then out in the Gaslight District and that was awesome, but that’s a major city. But Del Mar itself can’t compare to Saratoga. And frankly I’d rather party in Saratoga then SD anyway. It’s just part of the Saratoga experience.

Advantage – Saratoga

 

5. Attire

In general race tracks are one of the great intersections of life.  You have the richest of the rich and degenerate gamblers all under one roof.   Both Del Mar and Saratoga are no different in that regard.  However Saratoga’s grandstand is much more formal.   It’s sport coats everyday in the good seats.   You’ll see lots of people wearing “track outfits” at Delmar but they are the exception not the rule. It’s just way more casual all the way around.  Personally I like dressing up for the track.   It makes it feel like more of an event and frankly Saratoga feels like more of an event everyday than Del Mar did and I think it’s because of the dress code.

 

Advantage – Saratoga

 

6.  Paddock Area/Back Side Area

This one is kind of an unfair comparison because Del Mar really doesn’t have any place to hang out on the back side of the track.  I mean sure there are some places, but nothing like Saratoga.  I mean I’m just as happy at the Spa bringing in a cooler and lawn chairs and sitting in the trees as I am in a box dressed like a fashion model.   The picnic tables and back side of the track is part of the charm of Saratoga.   You can never see any part of a live race and have an awesome time. There is none of that at Del Mar.   Granted I was spoiled at Del Mar and had unreal seats, but without having those connections I think I would have gotten frustrated trying to watch the races.

 

Advantage – Saratoga

 

7. Track Food/Concessions

Again blowout Saratoga.   Saratoga has better good food, better cheap food, better everything.   Better service in the boxes too.  Like if I’m dressed in a suit and order a cocktail in shouldn’t come in a Big Gulp cup which it does at Delmar.   Also when I sat in a box at Saratoga the server had been working his section for 20 years and knew everybody’s families and life story.  He was the guy getting tips and inside info.  Just as big a horse racing fan as the people he was serving as is everybody at Saratoga.   At Delmar it was just people working jobs.  Felt transient.

 

Advantage – Saratoga

 

8. Weather

 

No brainer here.  Saratoga can be beautiful and perfect or a bizillion degrees with 1 billion degree humidity.   It’s a roll of the dice depending on the weekend.   Tough to beat SD weather.  It’s pretty much perfect everyday of the week.

 

Advantage – Del Mar

 

9. Overall Thoughts

You can probably figure out where I’m headed with this by now. If you are truly a horse racing fan then it’s Saratoga in a blowout.  Now truth being told Saratoga is one of my favorite places on earth.    I used to go with my dad every year in high school.  I had my bachelor party there.  I go with the First Lady now every year.  So it was an uphill battle for Del Mar from the beginning. Like I had a GREAT time at Del Mar. If I lived on the West Coast and had never been to Saratoga I’d probably swear by it. But the only reason I can see to go to Delmar over Saratoga is if you’re going with wives or girlfriends who don’t want to go to the races for a week straight. There is certainly more to do for them. They can go to the beach while you gamble. That could work.  However overall it felt like more of an LA/West coast scene to me. Lots of people there because that was the in thing to do as opposed to loving horse racing. Lots of plastic looking barbie dolls at opening day. The after party felt like an LA club. On Friday Nights they have concerts after the races and tons of young people showed up later. Not a bad if you’re looking to hook up, but I was getting pissed I had to wait 10 minutes to bet behind some hippie taking 4 days to place a 2 dollar win wager.

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The one point I want to make though is I don’t think my preference is because I’m an East Coast guy.  It’s much more of a Horse Racing Lover vs. Casual fan type thing. If you love horses I don’t care if you’re from San Diego, New York or Mars. Saratoga is the place to be.

 

Overall – Saratoga in a Bloodbath