"Every year, the racing season brings a feeling of adrenaline that you don't normally get in a laid-back little beach town."
Come post time, adrenaline is just what 108-pound Vann Belvoir is going to feel racing through his stomach like a pack of thundering hoofs down a dusty backstretch.
No matter that, as an apprentice jockey, he'll be allowed to ride five pounds lighter than the pros. And no matter that other jockeys will also be riding their mounts for the very first time.
Because when the gate lifts, Belvoir will be chasing a legend at a track that has long been a proving ground for apprentice jockeys. In 1949, Bill Shoemaker led the standings as a "bug rider" with 52 winners.
And although Belvoir is the second-leading jockey at the Longacre race track in Seattle with 60 winners through July, racing at Del Mar is a whole new game for a young jockey.
"It's kind of unusual to see someone so young go against such big names," said race track spokesman Dan Smith. "This is a tough circuit. And for anybody, even an older rider, to come in here and compete against the best riders in the world has got to put some butterflies in your stomach.
"But put this kid's five-pound weight advantage together with the talent of a kid who can ride like he can and you've got a potential combination."
One thing's for sure, when Belvoir climbs atop Musique D'Enfer before today's second race, he'll be ready to ride. Like the wind.
"Every time I go out, I believe I have a chance in every race," said Belvoir, who also competes on his high school wrestling team. "Anything can happen."
And how does a 16-year-old jockey prepare for the horse race of his young life?
If you're Vann Belvoir, and it's Southern California, you go to the zoo with your aunt and mother. "And I'm going to try to get some boogie-boarding in too," he said.