07/17/2013 5:23PM

Del Mar opener brings the party back to town

Stylish hats were the order of the day for some of the crowd attending Del Mar’s opening day on Wednesday.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Peter Miller hardly looks, or acts, like someone you’d expect to be channeling Pink, but when the trainer won the first race at Del Mar on Wednesday, he spoke for himself specifically, and Southern California racing generally, as he bounced into the winner’s circle.

“Let’s get this party started!” Miller, the defending training champ here, shouted after his horse Casa de Cambio won the first race on opening day as Del Mar started its 74th season before another overflow crowd.

[DEL MAR 2013: Complete meet coverage, schedule, race replays]

Plenty of people came out to get this party started. More than 45,000 were expected to stuff themselves into the facility, and the weather could not have been more hospitable, with a high in the upper 70s, and a cool, steady breeze coming in from the adjacent Pacific Ocean. Well before the first race was run, the area abutting to the paddock was packed with fans, and there were scores of patrons surveying the paddock scene from the back of every level of the six-story facility.

“Look at this,” Gary Stevens, back to ride at Del Mar for the first time in seven years, said while in the paddock before the first race. “I’m enjoying this. I’m glad I’m here, riding. I’d rather be doing that on opening day than watching.”

Joel Rosario, Del Mar’s leading rider from 2009-2011, came in for opening day, and won the first race. Since he will be riding at Saratoga on Friday, he’ll have a chance to win the first race at both meets.

Miller and Rosario also won the second race with Keep Movin.

Fans began pouring in to Del Mar more than 3 1/2 hours before the scheduled 2:05 p.m. Pacific first post. The anticipation increased when the popular race-caller Trevor Denman, starting his 30th season at Del Mar, came on the public address system to give the changes, and was greeted with a roar, his fans starved to hear him for the first time since April.

Denman is well-versed at playing the crowd for the first race. He dramatically made note as the runners neared the gate for the first race - which started right in front of the grandstand - and when the field burst from the stalls, Denman acknowledged the enthusiasm by saying, “There’s the roar from the large Del Mar crowd.”

The enthusiasm could be found in every nook and cranny of the track, from the apron, where fans set up beach chairs, to the Turf Club, which sells out despite premium prices for admission. This is the social event of the summer in San Diego.

As such, many fans come dressed in their finest, but the sartorial choices range from fine linen dresses to shorts and T-shirts, and, commensurate with that, hats are worn that run the gamut from whimsical - one guy was wearing a horse head, like he was trying out for a Gangnam Style video - to the truly elegant.

The party, indeed, had started.