A touch of royalty is coming to the Del Mar Racetrack.
The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club announced a partnership with Darley, the worldwide breeding operation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, Jan. 8.
This is the first West Coast sponsorship for Darley, whose U.S. operations are based in Kentucky, making it a prestigious coup for Del Mar.
"To partner with a premiere outfit like Darley is definitely a feather in our cap," said Josh Rubinstein, the thoroughbred club's vice president of development.
Darley will be the headline sponsor of one of the track's championship events, the Del Mar Debutante. The Grade 1 stakes for 2-year-old fillies has been renamed the Darley Debutante.
This is good news for race participants. First, the race's purse will increase from $250,000 to $300,000 - which was going to happen anyway, Rubinstein said, but Darley's support definitely helped.
Also, the winning owner and breeder will each receive a free breeding season to a coveted Darley stallion, which can cost between $5,000 and $150,000.
The multiyear partnership is coming with more support and perks, but Rubinstein would not disclose any dollar figures.
Darley, which operates all over the world from the Middle East to Japan, approached Del Mar in the middle of last year to expanding their presence in California, Rubinstein said.
While this reflects highly on the thoroughbred club, Darley benefits from the advertising and having access to California's owners, breeders and trainers right before the big September horse sale at Keeneland, Rubinstein said.
So will the Sheik be visiting Del Mar during the 2009 race meet, which runs from July 22 to Sept. 9?
The passionate horseman regularly attends the Keeneland horse sale, but no word yet on whether he'll see the turf meet the surf.
"We would love it if he came," Rubinstein said. "We would definitely roll out the red carpet for him."