Del Mar's Inaugural Breeders' Cup Being Seen As Crowning Moment For Historic Venue
Del Mar Thoroughbred Club this weekend will experience its "crowning moment" when the track hosts its "first Breeders' Cup," according to Mike Farrell of the AP. The track is "home to several prestigious races," including the $1M Pacific Classic. But the Breeders’ Cup will "elevate Del Mar to another level as an international showcase for racing’s biggest stars." Until now, the venues have "always been" in the L.A. area. Hollywood Park was the "site of the first Breeders’ Cup" in '84. That track "played host twice more before it closed" in '13. Santa Anita has "had the Breeders’ Cup a record nine times." Del Mar was "never under consideration until it widened the turf course." The $5M project, "completed in time" for the '14 summer season, now "meets the Breeders’ Cup requirement to accommodate 14 horses in grass races." Del Mar Exec VP & CMO Craig Dado said, "We were basically a nonstarter until we got the turf course widened." Farrell noted Del Mar had "everything else going for it: history, good weather in early November and an excellent reputation." The track will be "spruced up for the weekend with temporary 'chalets' to expand dining options and the facility decked out to accommodate a full house." Attendance will be "capped at 38,000 for both Friday and Saturday" (AP, 10/31).
PAVING THE WAY: DAILY RACING FORM's Jay Privman noted in the past 25 years, Del Mar "built a new, modern grandstand, and Hollywood Park closed, giving Del Mar additional fall dates to go along with its traditional summer season." That confluence of events, along with Del Mar "developing into a national powerhouse, made Del Mar ever more attractive to the Breeders’ Cup." This weekend Del Mar takes its "rightful place on the international stage" (DFR.com, 11/2). DAILY RACING FORM's Jay Hovdey wrote Del Mar President & CEO Joe Harper's tenure has seen the business go "from an also-ran on the national charts to the ranks of the most successful tracks in North America." Harper and his management team have "positioned Del Mar on the local bucket list." As a result, Harper was able to "sell the Breeders’ Cup selection committee on more than just Del Mar’s evocative, mission-style architecture, its fan-friendly amphitheater paddock, and its recently widened turf course." Harper: "My pitch became the landscape, not just the venue. When I told them San Diego was the sixth largest city in the country, nobody knew that" (DRF.com, 10/30).
READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP: Del Mar HR Dir Ann Hall said that the track has been "interested in hosting the Breeders’ Cup series for decades, so turning out a more intimate, smooth-as-silk experience for visitors is the top priority." Hall said that to bring the "aging grandstand up to first-class standards," months were spent "repainting walls, upgrading bathrooms, resurfacing floors, re-landscaping the grounds and track areas, replacing the furniture in the private boxes, bringing in new chairs and china for the restaurants and raising temporary structures, like the high-end 'chalet' tents near the track’s final turn" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/3).
ALL ABOUT LOGISTICS: In San Diego, Tod Leonard noted the Breeders' Cup includes a "travel process like no other in sports." Breeders' Cup Senior VP/Racing, Nominations & On-Site Operations Dora Delgado said, "To get this many horses here on international flights, it can definitely be a logistical nightmare." Leonard noted the Breeders’ Cup "pays international owners $40,000 per horse in travel expenses" and employs 40-year-old N.Y.-based livestock shipping company Mersant Int'l "to handle the arrangements." Mersant co-Owner Chris Santarelli said, "San Diego did a great job. Everybody bent over backward to make sure we were taken care of" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/1).