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Off to the Races

Worth provides a blueprint for the Breeders’ Cup, which turns a San Diego suburb into a horse racing mecca.

BY Ken Rivadeneira | Current Issue | Oct 30, 2017

This November 3–4, the Breeders’ Cup comes to Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, a tony seaside racetrack 20 minutes north of San Diego. Despite its long history, the idyllic spot had been previously overlooked, according to Breeders’ Cup CEO Craig Fravel, because it simply didn’t meet the event’s standards.

He would know; prior to his appointment as CEO of Breeders’ Cup Limited in 2011, Fravel was president of the Thoroughbred Club. Since then, Del Mar spent more than $5 million to expand the turf course, resurface it and install new drainage. “That really made a difference in terms of its eligibility,” says Fravel, who has worked with the venue and the city for the last three years to prepare for this event, estimated to have an economic impact of between $75 million and $100 million.

More than 2,700 temporary seats are being added, in addition to various infield and trackside VIP seating areas. The result creates an intimate, exclusive experience: Attendance is capped at 37,500 guests, who must have tickets in advance—no walk-ins. Access will depend on the ticket you hold. Here, Fravel gives us a rundown of what you’ll see on the race days.

Infield

Two infield areas, the Pacific Pavilion and the Beach, will offer an alternate view of the races. While the Pacific Pavilion will have a food festival atmosphere, the smaller Beach will be more intimate, with around 250 people. “It’s going to be Adirondack chairs, umbrellas and sand brought in for people to put their toes in and watch the horse races right from the rail of the turf course,” says Fravel.

Turf Club, Luxury Suites and Skyboxes

The fourth floor of the grandstand contains the Turf Club, a recently renovated premium lounge where guests can enjoy views of the track while eating food prepared by Top Chef alum Brian Malarkey. The fourth and fifth floors also contain VIP suites. The sixth floor of the grandstand has the skyboxes, which are larger private suites mainly sold to large groups.

Paddock and Walking Ring

Anyone can see the horses and paddock from outside a fence. But inside access is restricted to participants. “We don’t want folks encroaching on the path where the horses walk,” Fravel says. “Anytime you’re around thoroughbreds, which are highly tuned athletes, things can happen.” Nearby is the Enclosure, a private lounge for horse owners and other dignitaries.

Trackside

Among the temporary premium seating added to the stadium are two luxury “chalets” with capacity for 1,900 people. One of them, the Trophy Lounge, will mostly host celebrities and sponsor guests; it offers up-front views of the race, a full bar and a menu prepared by San Diego chef Jeff Strauss, a longtime racing fan. “The food will be awesome,” Fravel says.

Contact: Craig Fravel, craig@breederscup.com, 858.692.1757, breederscup.com

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