DEL MAR, California—A crowd of 40,000 people was expected to move through the turnstiles of the Del Mar race track on Wednesday. Since 1937, people have passed through the gates to be a part of San Diego county's racing season. The track has a rich history, but how many people have any idea what that history includes?
The man who made the song, "Where the Surf Meets the Turf" famous, is linked for all time to the track. So who is he?
"I don't know," answered birthday girl and opening day attendee Linda Kermott. Seconds later she remembered. "Bing Crosby," she shouted.
"He was our founding father," said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club President Joe Harper. "And he was the biggest name in Hollywood in 1937 when this place opened."
Bing Crosby greeted visitors as they arrived through the gates that first opening day in 1937. The track was a success for several years, but was shut down in 1942 because of World War II. So what was the track turned into during that time period?
"It was a military base," said opening day attendee Phillip Rust.
The Marines trained at the track and later, it became a manufacturing site for B-17 bomber parts.
After the war, the track once again opened to racing. It became the spot to be for Hollywood stars.
"They all came from L. A.," said Harper. "They wouldn't even start the races until the train came in from Los Angeles."
Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Mickey Rooney and Jimmy Durante spent time at the track. Others also came.
"Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner and Dorothy Lamour," Harper added.
Those stars would have seen incredible jockeys sitting atop swift horses. One of the most famous set his first record in 1949 with 52 wins and became the first apprentice to take the track's riding title. His name was William Lee Shoemaker.
Fast forward to several opening days to 1993. That's the year a new, $80 million track and grandstand were unveiled. In 2006, perhaps the biggest change to the track happened.
"One thing we are all in this business for is because we love horses and any time we can keep them healthy, we're gonna do what we can no matter what the cost," said Harper. "And polytrack was the answer."
Only one thing has remained the same since the first opening day in 1937, the hats sitting atop the heads of track goers.
"We've seen some good ones," said Rust. "We won a couple of times with flowers, real flowers."
"We've got some crazy hats out there," added Harper. "A lot of people having a good time. That's kind of what opening day is all about."