Smashing success of Breeders’ Cup highlights big year for Del Mar – Orange County Register

There was much skepticism within the horse racing industry three years ago when Del Mar was awarded its first Breeders’ Cup. Many questioned whether the seaside track could pull it off. Some of the biggest naysayers predicted it would be the first and last year Del Mar hosted the Super Bowl of horse racing.

But many of those same folks who warned of a nightmarish week in San Diego today are applauding Del Mar for a job well done. Track executives didn’t just hit a home run, they blasted a Giancarlo Stanton-esque bomb into the third deck.

“I think we’re a tough act to follow,” Del Mar president Joe Harper said this week while looking back at the 34th Breeders’ Cup.

He’s right.

The weather was superb, handle numbers were through the roof and there were no fatalities. It couldn’t have been a better two days of racing. The superlatives are still rolling in.

“It’s all been positive,” Harper said. “I thought it worked pretty well. Mother Nature certainly gave us a big boost in that regard. NBC couldn’t have done a better job with their coverage. I think we had Del Mar … you couldn’t market this place any better. What it looked like, the smoothness of most of the operation, the horses were all safe, great horses, and so many people here that had never been here before. I swear every single one of them is going to come back. It’s kind of a fun feeling. We’d been thinking about this for a lot of years.”

So much fun that one wonders when Del Mar will host the Breeders’ Cup again. Churchill Downs will be the host track in 2018, but beyond that it’s anybody guess.

“There’s an old Vaudeville saying, ‘Always leave ’em wanting more,’” Harper said. “After (this year) was over, everybody was talking about coming back here as soon as they could. But I think we do what the guy who invented this day wanted to do and have it go to different tracks.

“I think they’re probably looking at going back to Santa Anita (2019) after Churchill Downs and maybe back to Keeneland (2020) and then maybe back here (2021). That kind of makes sense to me, but I don’t make those calls.”

It was a banner year for Del Mar all around in 2017 when you consider total handle was up during both the summer and fall meets and, after 17 fatalities during the 2016 summer meet alone, there were only eight total (six during the summer and two this fall) for both meets this year. While we can all agree that one fatality is too many, Del Mar…

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