With a worldwide audience larger than America’s Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes), international racehorse breeders show off their finest on November 3 and 4. Over 45,000 fans, owners, and trainers will be in attendance at Del Mar, as it hosts the 2017 world championship of horse racing — the Breeders Cup.
The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, hosting for the first time, waited three years for the cup to come to town, after spending millions of dollars improving and widening the course. A visit to morning workouts on October 31 showed the Thoroughbred Club has turned over the entire operation of the track to the Breeders Cup organization.
Media trucks, race logistic trailers, and two-story party tents fill the parking lot just west of the grandstands. This is not your typical coastal-casual Del Mar track: this was a well-oiled machine, akin to the Super Bowl taking over a local NFL stadium.
Sam Wright, from Anacortes, Washington, was one of many watching the morning workouts on October 31. Although a traveling horse player (he goes to Dubai, Saudi Arabia, next) this has been on his bucket list for years. “It’s the Breeders Cup at Del Mar!” he said excitedly. “I’ve been waiting for this for years.”
The two days of racing will be a “crap shoot,” says Wright, as many of the bettors will be here to scope out the horses that will come into maturity during next year’s racing season. “It’s not about whether a horse wins or loses, it’s how did they compete?” he said.
Describing the competition among horses and trainers, “You don’t have to have the best horse in the race,” said Wright. “You have to have a horse’s best race.”
When asked if he’s a big bettor, Wright hemmed and hawed a little. He’s obviously not a two-dollars-to-show wagerer. I rephrased my question, asking if he’s ever filled out an IRS W2-G form (required for payouts larger than $10,000). “Several times,” he said.
With horses working out and trotting around the track in each direction, Dan Leary, the director of communications for the Breeders Cup, says, “It may look like chaos out there, but it’s well choreographed.”
“Some will run fast, or slow,” said Leary. “The ones that have been here before will run full speed right along the rail. Other horses may just stand on the track, sniffing the breeze, getting acclimated, spotting their friends. But they all know what they are doing.”
The Thoroughbred Club’s Fall Bing Crosby Season runs for its third year, after the Breeders Cup, through November 26.