Breeders’ Cup: Del Mar Tackles First Breeders’ Cup

Breeders’ Cup week is upon us, and the horses are not the only ones preparing for racing’s championship event. Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup for the first time in 2017, an honor that officials at the track have been working to achieve for many years since the event was first run in 1984. In 2014, Del Mar spent $5 million to widen its turf course to fit Breeders’ Cup standards. That same year, it was announced that the 2017 edition of the event would be held “where the turf meets the surf.”
A significant responsibility rests on the shoulders of track superintendent Dennis Moore, who took over the role at Del Mar early this year. After a catastrophic seventeen equine fatalities at the 2016 summer meet, Moore led an overhaul of the track’s dirt surface prior to this year’s summer. The surface was scraped down to the base, banking on the turns was increased, and a 3 1/2 inch dirt cushion was added to the top of the base, and 2017 at Del Mar proved to be far safer as a result, with fatalities decreasing to a total of five during this year’s summer meet. Moore will be overseeing his fourth Breeders’ Cup, having been the track superintendent for the race once at Hollywood Park and twice at Santa Anita in the past.
On October 6th, Moore and his crew began preparations for what is now known as the Bing Crosby season at Del Mar, with the first day of racing scheduled for Wednesday, November 1st. Moore told the San Diego Tribune that he expects the work and the track conditions to be “exactly the same” as they were over the summer.
In addition to the track surface, many other preparations are underway at Del Mar. The Breeders’ Cup Host Committee has planned an entire week of events leading up to the Breeders’ Cup in what they’ve dubbed the Breeders’ Cup Festival. Festivities range from galas and poker to live music and a golf tournament. According to the Festival’s website, the Breeders’ Cup is expected to bring in over $65 million in local economic impact to the San Diego area.
For the first time in Breeders’ Cup history, attendance has been capped at 37,500 per day in order to ensure a more positive experience for all involved. The track still plans to double its food and beverage staffing from opening-day levels. The amount of pari-mutuel clerks also will nearly double from normal track maximums of 220, with about 85 percent of the extra workers coming in from out of state. The goal is to minimize lines throughout the venue during the two-day event.
The Breeders’ Cup and Del Mar are investing about $4.5 million to create a total of 2,700 premium hospitality seating options, including a pair of trackside luxury chalets costing $750,000. The entire infield will be open to the public as well, with 400 tons of sand having been hauled in to create an artificial beach area on the inside rail that can accommodate up to 250 fans, and table seating provided for an additional 1,300. A temporary 7,000 square foot tent has been erected at Powerhouse Park, two minutes from Del Mar, to create the “Barn at the Beach.” A variety of the Breeders Cup Festival events will be held in the beachside structure, which can hold up to 600 patrons.
A record 46 overseas horses were pre-entered for this year’s event, including 14 from Irish trainer Aiden O’Brien – the most of any of the 95 trainers with pre-entries this year. The Breeders’ Cup will award $28 million in purse money over the course of two days and 13 races.
Dora Delgado, Breeders’ Cup senior vice president of racing, nominations and on-site operation, attributes at least some of the record international interest to the location. “When it comes to the beach, there’s nothing that tops that for our Europeans,” Delgado told the San Diego Tribune, “The internationals were all in from day one. They absolutely love when we pick a destination city, and San Diego checks all of the boxes.”
Del Mar and the surrounding area have put in countless hours of blood, sweat and tears to make this event a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those fortunate enough to attend, and it all comes to fruition this weekend.

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