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Stable Wars, The Inside Track


Stable Wars, The Inside Track

In San Diego, the exciting world of horse racing exists at one of the most prestigious tracks in the country. But a true insider’s look at the men and women who breed, train, and put it all on the line to compete in one of the world’s most exclusive sporting clubs is something privy only to a select few. Until now. The new reality series, Stable Wars: Del Mar, just wrapped filming a couple months ago at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Now in its second season after a brief six-episode run in 2013, Stable Wars follows three teams led by the likes of Craig Dado, Executive Vice President of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, sportscaster Nanci Dahl and trainer Karen Headly, and Jeffrey Strauss, owner of Pamplemousse Grille, as they compete to be the best horse racing outfit in Southern California.

“Horse racing is all about competition,” says Dado. “Jeffrey Strauss is an experienced and savvy horse owner who has had a lot of nice horses over the years, so competing against him is a challenge. The Flying Fillies [Headly and Dahl’s team] are brand new to the game, but they have huge expectations about taking the sport by storm, so it’s fun to watch how they’re doing and compete against them.”

Like most reality shows, Stable Wars: Del Mar has plenty of attitude and personality beyond just showcasing the sport. “There is quite a bit of drama,” says Dado. “When you put big personalities like Scott Kaplan, Jeffrey Strauss, and the ladies from the Flying Fillies together, that’s bound to happen. I just try to stay out of the way and keep my head down.”

But this is a classy sport, and typical street-brawl reality TV is off the books. “These people are very professional and a lot of fun,” says Strauss. “When they approached me, I said I didn’t want to be part of a show that’s controversy, I didn’t want it to be Housewives of Atlanta, but it shows horse racing in a very positive light.”

The tension comes from seeing the races play out in real time. There’s no editing to skew the outcomes. “These are real owners, real horse races, in real time,” explains Dahl. “If your horse doesn’t finish where you’d like him to, you can’t call cut and do a second take.”

Like the first season, the show focuses on not just the strategy, training, and dedication of working with race horses but the working cogs that make Del Mar the top tier facility it is. Viewers get an inside look at a fascinating world that’s largely unexplored. “The racetrack is a fascinating place,” says Dado. “The people, jockeys, trainers, owners, fans — they are all very interesting people with very diverse backgrounds.”

There are, of course, those who say the show promotes cruelty. Injuries do occur, but Dahl says the producers and the teams took great strides to ensure all horses were safe and treated well. “What made the biggest impact on me was the way some of the horses were injured on turf and how everyone worked so hard and cared so much to fix the problem so the horses were taken care of. That’s what Karen Headly’s stable stands for and that’s what the Flying Fillies stand for too.”

Dado hopes the show’s exposure to the Del Mar Race Track, and the message of the sport it sends, will attract even more teams to compete with him in the coming seasons. “I enjoy seeing how great the track looks on television,” he says. “I’m hopeful the show can attract new people to Del Mar and maybe some new owners to the sport as well.”

For Dahl, she’s proud to bring feminism into what has largely been a man’s world. “I think it will change the face of horse racing,” she says, “and the way people view women working in a man’s world. I know it will spark interest in the sport and create opportunity and positive growth for the future of the horse business.”

As for the stress of both trying to win the races and do it on film, Strauss says it’s just another fun day at the office. “It was a great experience. Everyone was grounded and there were a lot of laughs. There was so much camaraderie between the film crew and our crew, we’ll be friends for a long time.”

For a complete listing of airtimes and episodes, visit the show’s Web site. (www.stablewarsdelmar.com)   RYAN THOMAS

Photography by Vincent Knakal


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