December 3, 2021

Del Mar showed why the Breeders’ Cup shines on the West Coast

View Original Notice ? Del Mar showed why the Breeders’ Cup shines on the West Coast

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Inquiring minds want to know.

After another successful Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar last weekend, how soon until we see the Super Bowl of horse racing at the seaside track again?

All we know at this point is that the 39th Breeders’ Cup, scheduled for Nov. 4-5 next year, will be held for the second time at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky.

Beyond that? The Breeders’ Cup host site selection committee is as tight-lipped as can be over revealing where future events will be held.

I reached out to a Breeders’ Cup official on Thursday, asking when we can expect to learn where the 2023 and 2024 World Championships will be held.

“We do not comment publicly on future host site status until we are ready to formally announce a new venue or venues,” an official statement from the Breeders’ Cup said.

So all we can do is speculate, and I think my speculation is pretty good.

Santa Anita general manager Nate Newby told me in early October that his track was talking to the Breeders’ Cup folks, but that’s as far as he was willing to go.

“There’s nothing official to announce, but we love hosting the Breeders’ Cup and there are discussions, so I think you’ll see it at Santa Anita (again) sooner rather than later,” he said.

Prediction: Santa Anita will host the Breeders’ Cup in 2023.

Then, depending on the relationship between Churchill Downs and the Breeders’ Cup folks, you can expect the Twin Spires to host the event in 2024.

Prediction: Del Mar will host its third Breeders’ Cup in 2025.

Del Mar CEO Joe Harper concurred during a telephone interview Thursday.

“We’d like to have it (again) next week,” he said. “But I think that’s a pretty fair assessment of where or what’s going to happen. There are some other tracks, but some of them aren’t big enough or it doesn’t kinda work. Let’s face it, the West Coast works better for TV time and for weather usually.”

Harper was understandably giddy about how last weekend turned out.

If Del Mar’s inaugural Breeders’ Cup in 2017 received exceptional grades from most everybody, how about the 2021 edition?

“I’d have to add a couple more A’s and some plusses,” Harper said. “Great horses, great racing and everybody got home safely. I really was pleased with the whole couple of days, and most importantly, so was Breeders’ Cup.”

It truly was, save the mixup in the Juvenile Turf, when a horse was mistakenly scratched and then allowed to run only for purse money, a Breeders’ Cup to remember.

There were no fatalities on the track. A record $182,908,409 was wagered over the two days, a 4.7% increase over the previous record of $174,628,986 set in 2019 at Santa Anita and a 14% increase over the total handle of $160,472,893 in 2020 at Keeneland.

“That was kind of a good feeling,” Harper said.

But again, inquiring minds want to know.

How much of that $182-plus million came from Harper’s pocket?

“Not a dime,” he said with a laugh.

Then he added, jokingly, “If I had made any bet at all, it probably would have been on that horse that was scratched by mistake.”

On-track handle for the two days was $19,032,307. On-track attendance for the two days was 47,089, which was most likely kept down because of precautions related to COVID-19 and the fact ticket capacity was reduced. For example, no infield admission was sold.

Overall, what the 2021 Breeders’ Cup showed is that when racing gives its fans a solid product, they’ll step up and support it.

“It’s easy to get lost in the negative side of things, especially in the last couple of years,” Harper said of the sport’s detractors. “This is kind of a very contentious world now that we live in and sometimes civility is the victim in this whole thing. I think that’s part of it, and it’s not just racing.

“You have days like this last weekend, you see the horses come out healthy and people have a good time, it puts a little sunshine on the sport. I think it really needed that.”

Follow Art Wilson on Twitter @Sham73

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