A Winner by the Sea

On the Southern California coast, Del Mar is a haven for beachcombers, gardeners ― and fans of fast, fast horses
Peter Jensen

"I used to ride my saddle horse for miles along the beach to Torrey Pines State Reserve," Fae Sanger says as she gazes across the Del Mar Racetrack toward the ocean. "Some of the trainers used to take thoroughbreds out to walk in the surf."

While waiting for the next race, Sanger and her Del Martian friend Don Terwilliger fondly recall the track's ― as well as this Southern California beach town's ― storied past.

Terwilliger and Sanger were present as youngsters when Seabiscuit beat Ligaroti in the 1938 match race that cemented the reputation of both the racetrack and the town. Terwilliger grew up in Del Mar and was smitten with horse-racing fever as a young boy when he and 20,000 other fans jammed the track to watch the 'Biscuit win by a nose, breaking the track record by four seconds.

Sixty-six years later you don't often see horses on the beach, and Sanger has grown suddenly sanguine about her chances in the next race.

She advises her guests to bet on an up-and-comer named Decisional but cautions, "I've owned horses and I've been around 'em all my life, but I'm still a $2 bettor. Nobody knows for sure what a horse is going to do. The old saying holds true: 'There are a thousand ways to lose a race and only one way to win.'"