The Super Bowl of Horse Racing
Breeders’ Cup Excitement Kicks Off In Del Mar
Posted on March 1, 2017
There was a palpable energy Tuesday morning on the terrace at Del Mar Plaza as plans were officially unveiled at a press conference for the 34th running of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The premier thoroughbred racing event, considered one of the most prestigious in the world, will take place at first-time host site, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, on November 3 and 4, 2017.
Fresh off of attending Sunday’s Oscars festivities in Hollywood, DMTC President and CEO Joe Harper led the presentation, where he described pitching Del Mar to host the Breeders’ Cup. “Many of the people who made the decision to have the Breeders’ Cup here had never been to Del Mar; some had never been to San Diego,” he said, gesturing to the crisp blue sky and stunning ocean view beyond the terrace. “It’s pretty easy for me to sell something like this.” He continued, “Of all the venues the Breeders’ Cup has been to, this has got to be the icing on the cake,” referencing the more than 50,000 hotel rooms in San Diego, 30,000 of which are within 15 minutes of the venue, plus restaurants and other area amenities. “It’s going to be a really great experience to be here, not just at the track at Del Mar.”
The Breeders’ Cup and DMTC teamed up with plans to invest over $4.5 million in renovations to the race track in preparation for the event, enhancing seating and VIP experiences for fans, racing enthusiasts, guests, and sponsors. Attendance will be capped at 37,500, short of the venue’s full 44,000 capacity, to maximize the comfort and overall experience for all attendees, underscoring a joint commitment to an unrivaled Breeders’ Cup event.
“This is not going to be your grandmother’s Del Mar,” said Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel, who was also on hand. Fravel, who was with DMTC for 21 years prior to taking the helm at the Breeders’ Cup, has a keen knowledge of not only the venue itself, but also the Del Mar racing enthusiast clientele. Upscale amenities will take center stage at the site, including two temporary luxury trackside chalets that will boast ocean and starting gate views, and will provide private catering, wagering, and restrooms, for a total of more than 1,800 guests.
Even the infield is getting a chic makeover, with the addition of “The Beach,” a private, ticketed area with a sand floor, seating, umbrellas, and video screens. “For our fans and people who haven’t been to Del Mar before, I think it’ll bring a real flavor of the ocean and where the turf meets the surf right to the race track,” said Fravel.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer shared Harper’s and Fravel’s enthusiasm, saying, “It really is the ‘Super Bowl of horse racing.’” He underscored the economic impact that hosting an event of this magnitude will have for the region, saying figures could reach the $100 million mark as a result of the Breeders’ Cup races in Del Mar. “We can’t wait to have so many people here in November to show off this entire region and how we work together,” said Faulconer.
In honor of the Breeders’ Cup, an outdoor art installation titled The Art Of The Horse is planned for Del Mar and neighboring cities. The collection will feature a total of 20 life-sized horse sculptures painted by San Diego artists. Two of the artists selected for the project, Erik Skoldberg and Remy Weinger, were on hand as the first sculpture, Weinger’s yet unfinished work, was presented.
The installation is just one way to extend the buzz of the Breeders’ Cup beyond the confines of the race track. Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott urged visitors to “come early and enjoy the entire week here in Del Mar and in the San Diego region,” adding, “We want to share our special seaside village with all the international fans of thoroughbred racing. We anticipate not only two days of the best competitive racing, but we look forward to all of the many social, charity, and community events that will take place in Del Mar throughout the week of the Breeders’ Cup.”
Two of the most celebrated jockeys in racing history, Hall of Famers Gary Stevens and Mike Smith, closed out the morning.
Recovering from a hip replacement at almost 54 years old, Stevens says he expects to be on horseback within the next ten days, and his recovery has been much quicker than last year’s knee replacement. “I’m hopeful and I’ll be very thankful if I can get into the Breeders’ Cup races, but don’t count me out,” he said.
When asked what it will mean to him to ride in this year’s event — he rode in the very first Breeders’ Cup in 1984 at Hollywood Park — he said, “I think we can expect a great event. It’s pretty much in my backyard, and I’m obviously looking forward to competing. I’m thankful to Breeders’ Cup for giving it to Del Mar.”
Fellow veteran Smith, who rode Arrogate to victory in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, added to the praise for Del Mar, saying it “has become my favorite city to be in, and then to add my two favorite days on top of it — it’s going to be incredible. It’s going to be a great event. For me, anyway, it’ll probably be the best one ever.” Not missing a chance to take a friendly jab at his longtime rival, he added, “As long as I can beat Gary this time.”
Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Monday, March 6, at 9am, with single-day ticket prices ranging from $35 to $375 on Friday, and $50 to $500 on Saturday. Two-day packages range from $85 to $1,875 per person. All tickets will be sold in advance and there will be no walk-up ticket sales available. Advance sales have already begun. According to Fravel, an email sent to previous ticket purchasers with opportunity to buy seats prior to the general public resulted in more than $500,000 of ticket sales in roughly an hour. Turf Club members and box seat holders have also been offered advance ticketing options. Fans interested in receiving information about any additional pre-sale opportunities can register on the Breeders’ Cup Web site.
All tickets for the Breeders’ Cup races, including the cornerstone of the series, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic race, will be sold prior to race day, and there will be no on-site ticket sales during the event. Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets early, as demand is already extremely high for this elite racing event. breederscup.com/2017 Deanna Murphy
Photography by Bob Stefanko