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13 Things You Didn't Know about the Breeders' Cup

For the first time ever, Del Mar Racetrack hosts the Breeders’ Cup World Championships (November 3–4).



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Beholder #8, ridden by Gary Stevens (in orange), overtakes Songbird #1, ridden by Mike Smith, to win the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Santa Anita Park on November 4, 2016. | Photo by Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup

1. It’s a big deal that the Breeders’ Cup has come to San Diego.

The Breeders’ Cup is like the Kentucky Derby, were the Derby held at different racetracks every year. (If you prefer sailing comparisons, it’s like America’s Cup coming to San Diego Bay.)

 

2. No, really, the BC is a BFD.

Why? It puts San Diego on the world stage—65 percent of the ticket sales come from outside Southern California. The economic impact could be $65 million or more.

 

3. We used to be too small-time to host the championship.

Del Mar was ineligible to host the BC until it widened the turf course in 2014. It cost $5 million to do so, but it means we could be in the rotation from now on. (Churchill Downs gets it next year, though.)

 

4. The Breeders’ Cup is the “richest two days in sports.”

For racing newbies, that means the total purse and awards given out amount to $28 million.

The 34th annual championship will feature 13 different races. One of those is the Classic Race, 1 1/4 miles, which pays $6 million. Translation: The owner of the first-place horse will get 55 percent, or $3.3 million to share with the trainer and jockey. Second place takes home 17 percent, or $1.02 million. It decreases from there. Still, that’s a boatload of dough for a race that lasts about two minutes.

 

5. The horses come from all over the world…

They will be flown in from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Brazil, Ireland, England, Australia, and South Africa.

 

6. …as well as from our own backyard.

Gary and Mary West will enter a horse named West Coast, Torrey Pines High School grad Tyler Seltzer owns Finest City, and Del Mar’s Kaleem Shah will possibly race one of his horses this year.

 

7. Yes, there is a charitable component.

Several of the 20 painted horses displayed around San Diego will be sold to benefit local and thoroughbred charities. The exhibit is called Art of the Horse.

 

8. Elizabeth Banks is a BC Ambassador.

The 43-year-old actress fell in love with horse racing at age 10, when she began frequenting Saratoga Race Course with her dad. Acting in Seabiscuit took her love of horse racing to a whole new level. Banks will be in Del Mar for the races. Other ambassadors include Kate Upton, Bobby Flay, Joe Torre, Bo Derek, Carson Kressley, Toby Keith, and Gary Player.

 

9. But other names are technically more important.

It’s not possible to guarantee that any horse will race, but last year’s Classic Race winner was Arrogate. With over $17 million in winnings, Arrogate is the highest-earning North American horse of all time. His trainer is Bob Baffert, who also trained American Pharoah. Mike Smith, a 53-year-old Hall of Fame jockey, rides Arrogate (he also rode Zenyatta—remember her?). Smith has bagged four Triple Crown victories and 25 wins in various Breeders’ Cups. A contender for Arrogate is Collected (also trained by Bob Baffert!). Gary Stevens, 54 and a Hall of Famer like Smith, has won 11 times in Breeders’ Cup events, as well as the Triple Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont States three times apiece! He will be riding—horse TBD!

 

10. If you’re going, wear purple.

That’s the BC color.

 

11. It’s sold out.

Attendance was capped at 37,000 per day, as maximizing crowds wasn’t really the point. But there’s still so much left of Del Mar’s Bing Crosby season, which runs through November 26.

 

12. The festivals and events are mostly sold out, too.

A long lineup of concerts, dining events, fun runs, and more are scheduled October 28 through November 4. Check breederscupfestival.com for more information.

 

13. Now you know for next time…

Get excited!


More Cup! Read more in-depth stories on the Breeders’ Cup.

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