Breeders Cup races go to oceanside at Del Mar
DEL MAR, Calif. – On a quiet afternoon, just before the thoroughbreds take center stage at the Del Mar Race Course, you can hear the small ocean waves landing on the beach. Del Mar’s finish line is only about a half-mile from the ice-blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. It’s near San Diego and its Spanish-style architecture was once the playground of Hollywood motion picture and entertainment stars like Bing Crosby, Harry James, Pat O’Brien, Desi Arnaz and Jimmy Durante.
Opulent and with an eye on the affluent and deal-makers, Del Mar will host its first Breeders Cup races this year. With four races on Friday, Nov. 3, and then nine races on Saturday, Nov. 4, the Breeders Cup caps its weekend with the $6 million Breeders Classic for all the world to see.
Thoroughbreds come from around the globe to wrangle media headlines and contest for million-dollar purses on the two days of the Breeders Cup. European champions come from Ireland, England and France. Australia and Argentina lend their best, as do Canada and Japan.
Winning at the Breeders Cup means as much fame as it does fortune. The sheikhs of Dubai want fame – they already have enough money to wallow in for a lifetime.
In America, the trainers who send out their best are looking for annual awards. The owners want to advance the already handsome stud fees the winners of the 13 races will command when they go into retirement. Up and coming jockeys want to take full advantage of what a win or two could do for their still-budding careers.
Reputations are enhanced. Hall of Fame credentials are buffed.
It’s one of the few days thoroughbred racing can catch the sporting public’s attention.
More people watch the Kentucky Derby, but no other race is seen by more viewers than the Saturday evening Breeders Classic.
Quite a variety of races are featured. Sprints, routes, the mile distance, and the Classic’s 1 1/4-mile test. Many races are on the turf course that encourages thoroughbreds from abroad to try their luck. The two-year-olds, three-year-olds and older horses all get their time in the limelight.
International trainers Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden are often there. America legends-to-be such as Bill Mott, Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, Linda Rice, Rudy Rodriguez and Shug McGaughey have their moments. Frankie Dettori, Ryan Moore, Joao Moreira and Olivier Peslier, jockeys who are routinely praised in Europe, join in competition with Johnny Valazquez, Mike Smith, Irad Ortiz, Joel Rosario, Javier Castellano and Jose Ortiz that represent American racing.
Horse of the Year honors often are heaped on the burnished back of the winner of the Classic.
Crosby, O’Brien, Durante and Arnaz are now gone. But Bo Derek, Bobby Flay, Elizabeth Hurley and Joe Torre often attend the Breeders Cup happenings.
The man-made scenery at Del Mar is hypnotizing. As always, the thoroughbreds can captivate with one swish of their tails. And the Breeders Cup races get a chance to capture the public’s interest – at least for two days.