Del Mar Ready to Host First Breeders’ Cup

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships slogan is “The Best is yet to Come,” and the lyrics of that song might ring true this season if this year’s brand new host site is any indication. The Breeders’ Cup makes its debut at yet another iconic American racing venue in 2017 when Del Mar welcomes the 34th annual event to the place “where the turf meets the surf” for two days of the best the sport of thoroughbred racing has to offer on Friday and Saturday, November 3-4.

Pre-entries were taken on Oct. 25 for the 13 Breeders’ Cup races and a total of 187 horses were entered. Final entries will be taken on Monday, Oct. 30, when cross-entered horses must make their final decisions, and the fields (and also-eligibles, if any) will be drawn.

The weekend of championship racing represents a culmination of years of waiting for Del Mar’s dreams of becoming a Breeders’ Cup host to come to fruition.  Del Mar realized its long-standing dream of bringing the Breeders’ Cup to the suburban area just north of San Diego back in June 2014, when the track was first announced as the 2017 host venue. Del Mar would seem to make a perfect new Breeders’ Cup location. However, the track only became a viable hosting option in the last few years after clearing a pair of substantial hurdles that had stood in its way.

The first obstacle was passed when Del Mar returned to dirt racing on its main track after several years of racing on a synthetic surface. Secondly, in the past, Del Mar was solely a summertime racing destination. That all changed when the scenic venue inaugurated its Bing Crosby fall race meet, taking over the dates formerly held by the defunct Hollywood Park and thereby clearing yet another hurdle on its way to hosting its first Breeders’ Cup.

With the dirt main track surface and the fall race dates in place, Del Mar had finally put itself in realistic position to host a Breeders’ Cup for the first time.  The track was originally expected to be announced as the 2016 Breeders’ Cup host, but 2017 was eventually settled upon after Keeneland  became a first-time host of the event in 2015 and officials were reluctant to have back-to-back first-time host venues.

Keeneland’s turn as Breeders’ Cup host was a rousing success, and now Del Mar’s time has finally arrived.

“Over the years, Del Mar has established an extraordinary reputation for outstanding racing,” said Breeders’ Cup Ltd. President Craig Fravel. “We are excited by the energy and support of the San Diego community and their efforts to make the 2017 World Championships one of the most successful in our history.”

Due to parking and spectator capacity restrictions at Del Mar, grandstand general admission to the event is greatly limited this year and the live crowd size will not be able to approach the kind of attendance numbers regularly posted at fellow Southern California host venue Santa Anita.  Racing fans can still try for infield general admission, priced at $35 for Friday and $50 for Saturday.  The infield might not be the best place to see the races, but it will feature the additional attraction of the “Taste of the Breeders’ Cup” infield festival with food from more than 20 local chefs and food vendors.

Since the Breeders’ Cup announcement was made three years ago, Del Mar has undergone several upgrades aimed, at least in part, to ready the track for this big event.  Two years ago the Del Mar turf course was totally redone in order to accommodate 14-horse fields on the grass.

After the turf was done, the main track was resurfaced and reconfigured in the months between December 2016 and June 2017.  Del Mar redid the track’s base, adjusted the banking on the turns and resurfaced with the new El Segundo sand composition similar to the track surface at Santa Anita.

Del Mar will open its fall meet on Wednesday, Nov. 1, and the 34th annual Breeders’ Cup will run on Nov. 3-4, featuring purses of over $29 million during those two days of racing alone, including a robust undercard program loaded with stakes races.  The Breeders’ Cup itself currently consists of 13 divisional races — with four to be run on Friday and nine to be run on Saturday.

The 2017 Breeders’ Cup daily schedule will be as follows:

2017 Breeders’ Cup World Championships

(Official race order to be determined)

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3

Race Age, Sex Distance Purse*
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) 2yo, Fillies 1 mile (T) $1,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) 3yo & Up 1 mile $1,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) 2yo, C&G 1 mile (T) $1,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) 3yo & Up, F&M 1 1/8 miles $2,000,000

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4

Race Age, Sex Distance Purse*
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) 2yo, Fillies 1 1/16 miles $2,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) 3yo & Up 5 furlongs (T) $1,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) 3yo & Up, F&M 7 furlongs $1,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) 3yo & Up, F&M 1 1/8 miles (T) $2,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) 3yo & Up 6 furlongs $1,500,000
Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) 3yo & Up 1 mile (T) $2,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) 2yo, C&G 1 1/16 miles $2,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) 3yo & Up 1 1/2 miles (T) $4,000,000
Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) 3yo & Up 1 1/4 miles $6,000,000

Notable on the schedule of races at Del Mar are distances of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, which must be run at 5 furlongs due to Del Mar’s configuration, and the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, which was controversially chosen to be run at 1 1/8 miles instead of a more traditional — and perhaps more suitable — 1 3/8 miles.

The Breeders’ Cup will host the annual $1 million Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge [BCBC], and some of racing’s best and most lucrative guaranteed pick-4 and pick-6 pools of the entire year.

The date and venue of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup has already been announced, with Churchill Downs set to host the World Championship for the ninth time on Nov. 2-3, 2018.

Noel Michaels
Noel Michaels has been involved in many aspects of thoroughbred racing for more than two decades, as a Breeders’ Cup-winning owner and as a writer, author, handicapper, editor, manager and promoter of the sport for a wide range of companies including Daily Racing Form and Nassau County Off-Track Betting.
He also is regarded as the leading source of news and information for handicapping tournaments and the author of the “Handicapping Contest Handbook: A Horseplayer’s Guide to Handicapping Tournaments”, which made his name virtually synonymous with the increasingly-popular tournament scene.
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