After many months of planning and prepping, the stage has been set for the 34th annual Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships to come to Del Mar.
It’s finally showtime.
One of thoroughbred racing’s biggest events, the Breeders’ Cup consists of 13 Grade I races with purses and awards totaling more than $28 million. This year’s edition will be hosted by the seaside oval for the first time, slated for Nov. 3 and 4 as part of the fall meet’s opening weekend.
It will be likely be a new experience for many people, predicted Craig Dado, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. He said that based on reports as of early October, 76 percent of ticket buyers are from outside Southern California, and many of them are likely East Coast fans who go to Saratoga in New York rather than Del Mar in the summer.
“We’re going to blow everyone away with what we have to offer,” Dado said. “Between the weather, the beaches, the restaurants … there’s never been a (Breeders’ Cup) host site quite like Del Mar.”
With the event expected to bring in an estimated $100 million to the area, the organizers are pulling out all the stops. They’re presenting a week’s worth of activities in Del Mar and the surrounding areas during the Breeders’ Cup Festival, which starts Oct. 28 and runs through Nov. 4.
The track itself will open Nov. 1 and feature the return of the Hollywood Fashion Contest. Racegoers can vie for more than $3,500 in prizes by dressing up in the categories of Most Glamorous, Best Dressed Couple or Debonair Man, and Best Celebrity Look-alike or Famous Character. The grand prize is a one-night stay in the Fairmont Grand Del Mar Hotel and dinner for two at Addison Restaurant, a package valued at more than $1,000. Sign-ups will be between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico.
On Nov. 2, the racetrack will host a Breeders’ Cup Sneak Peek Day, with event merchandise for sale, special food and cocktails, an autograph session with jockeys and trainers, and an opportunity to win tickets for Friday and Saturday.
For the championships on Nov. 3 and 4, ticket sales have been capped at 38,000 each day. As of early October, the majority of tickets were sold out, Dado said, although there may be still be some available for the infield or the two-story, luxury chalets in the Seaside Concert Area. He added that all tickets must be bought ahead of time, and walkups will not be permitted.
Parking on site will only be permitted for those who have already bought passes, which are now sold out. Dado said parking services will be offered by select host hotels, the British Bus Co. at the Solana Beach train station, Uber and Lyft, and there are three off-site parking locations that will offer complimentary shuttles for ticket holders - Del Mar Horse Park (14550 El Camino Real, Del Mar), MiraCosta College’s San Elijo campus (3333 Manchester Ave., Cardiff) and the Kilroy Realty Park & Ride (3633 Kilroy Driveway, San Diego).
Those who attend the Breeders’ Cup will watch the best horses in training compete for year-end honors, including Horse of the Year in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The 2017 edition of the Classic is expected to feature last year’s winner, Arrogate, who will take on top-ranked older horse Gun Runner and TVG Pacific Classic winner Collected. There will also be a handful of horses with local connections competing during the two days, including Finest City, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner who is owned by Tyler and Wayne Seltzer of Rancho Santa Fe; and West Coast, a Classic contender and emerging 3-year-old star who is owned by Rancho Santa Fe’s Gary and Mary West.
While the Breeders’ Cup celebrations end Nov. 4, there will still be plenty of action at Del Mar during the following three weeks.
“It’s our fourth season of the Bing Crosby (fall) meet,” said Chris Bahr, director of events and promotions. “We’re still trying to create more awareness throughout the community. We’re looking to keep the momentum, especially after the Breeders’ Cup.”
One way Del Mar plans to accomplish that is with the return of concerts. The popular Reggae Fest featuring Iration will be presented on Nov. 18, and rock band The Offspring will perform on Nov. 25. Go to delmarracing.com to check for updates.
Two events previously on the Bing Crosby meet calendar will merge into one on Nov. 25 - the Craft Beer, Cider, Cocktail & Wine Fest, to be held in the Seaside Concert Area. There will be dozens of seasonal ales and ciders; local, international and hard-to-find brews; and other libations. For $20, patrons will receive five samples. To supplement the drinks, there will be a Wing Feast, where six vendors will serve three flavors of $1 wings.
Also during the fall meet, Del Mar will participate in several charitable events. Visitors who bring a new, unwrapped toy to the Stretch Run admission gates in support of Toys for Tots on Nov. 19 will receive free admission that day. Those who donate nonperishable food for the San Diego Food Bank on Closing Day (Nov. 26) will also be able to enter at no charge. And those who participate in Del Mar’s Family Mile Fun Run at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) will be supporting the Helen Woodward Animal Center and its equestrian therapy program for people with special needs.
Racegoers can also look forward to the return of the Handicapping Challenge (Nov. 11-12), College Day (Nov. 18), Thanksgiving Brunch (Nov. 23), Daybreak at Del Mar (Saturdays, except Nov. 4), Taste of the Turf Club (Sundays), Seniors Day (Thursdays), Weekend Handicapping Seminars, Free & Fun Sundays, Newcomers Seminars (daily) and Sing With Bing (daily). As of press time, a Fall Food Truck Festival is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 11; go to delmarracing.com for updates.
“With two concerts, several events and a great stakes schedule, we’re looking forward to a fantastic meet,” Bahr said.
Del Mar racetrack 2017 fall season
Dates: Nov. 1-26
Location: Via de la Valle and Jimmy Durante Boulevard
First post: 12:30 p.m.; special post times-11:25 a.m. Breeders’ Cup Friday (Nov. 3); 10:10 a.m. Breeders’ Cup Saturday (Nov. 4); 11 a.m. Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23)
Admission: Nov. 1-2 and Nov. 5-26-$6 (Stretch Run and Clubhouse), free for children 17 and younger; Breeders’ Cup (Nov. 3-4)-Pre-purchased tickets only, breederscup.com
Parking: $10 General, $20 Valet; Breeders’ Cup (Nov. 3-4)-Pre-purchased passes only (SOLD OUT), off-site parking available at Del Mar Horse Park, MiraCosta College’s San Elijo campus, Kilroy Realty Park & Ride
Information: (858) 755-1141, dmtc.com, delmarscene.com, breederscup.com