DEL MAR -- Thoroughbred racing returns to the Del Mar Racetrack today for the 77th summer season, which will begin with the annual hat contest and $100,000 Oceanside Stakes.
Around 40,000 fans are expected to attend the first Friday opener at the track in 46 years. First post is at 2 p.m.
Among the expected highlights of the 39-day meet, according to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club:
-- 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion California Chrome is scheduled on July 23 to make his first start since a March 26 victory in the $10 million Dubai World Cup;
-- 2015 Pacific Classic winner Beholder is set to run June 30;
-- This year's Pacific Classic, which annually offers the track's top purse at $1 million, will be held Aug. 20;
-- Five stakes races, including the Pacific Classic, that will offer the winners automatic entry into the prestigious Breeders' Cup Challenge series.
More than $5,000 in prizes is up for grabs in the Opening Day Hats contest in the Plaza de Mexico.
Categories include most glamorous, best racing theme, funniest/most outrageous, best fascinator and flowers/all other. There is no fee to participate, and the grand prize winner will receive a one-night stay at the Fairmount Grand Del Mar and dinner for two at Addison Restaurant, valued at over $1,000.
Winners in each category receive $300 plus a Studio Savvy gift basket valued at $250. Second place is worth $200 and third place $100.
Racing will take place Wednesday through Sunday until closing day, which will be held on Labor Day Monday.
Racetrack parking is $10, though free parking for 1,100 cars will be available 1.8 miles to the east on Via de la Valle.
For those who prefer public transportation, the DMTC suggests taking Amtrak or the North County Transit District's Coaster trains or buses to the Solana Beach station, where they can meet a shuttle bus to the track.
For opening day, the NCTD has added a special southbound Coaster train that leaves Oceanside at 11:32 a.m. and arrives in Solana Beach station at 11:54 a.m.