Racing Future is determined to inspire a new generation of fans to enjoy the sport of horse racing.

Horse Racing Q & A with Joe Harper, GM of Del Mar

Once upon a time, Jimmy Durante and Bing Crosby were the most famous faces at the Del Mar Racetrack. But these days, it’s Joe Harper who is best known.

For the last 35 years, Harper’s served as the president and general manager of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. He’s schmoozed with celebrities, worked with jockeys and horses and helped transform Del Mar racing into a must-do summer event.

The 70-year-old Del Mar resident is no stranger to glamour. His grandfather was filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille and Harper grew up around celebrities and horses. Harper even had small parts in DeMille’s movies.

The track’s most popular person talks about horses, Hollywood and how he really feels about golf.

Q: Why did you get into the horse-racing business?

A: Well, you can deliver the mail at MGM Studios for just so long. I mean if you aren’t discovered within a year, you either move on or end up a “gofer” for life. While I was moving on, I met a fellow named Joe Burnham who was producing a couple of TV shows for CBS. Both were all about racing and he needed a photographer to shoot interviews and vignettes for the live show every Saturday from Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar. He thought I’d be good at the job and hired me. The fact that I have always been around horses for most of my life certainly helped.

Q: You grew up in Hollywood — can you tell us what you did there?

A: My first job in Hollywood was at age 7 working in one of my grandfather’s pictures, “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Tough work, I got to travel with the circus, play with the clowns and work with the animals. When the film won the Best Picture Oscar, I figured I’d keep on going. Next one was “The Ten Commandments.” That was quite an experience; we lived in Egypt for a few months and we were always on location out in the desert. I played a Hebrew slave trying not to get run over by a chariot.

Read More