DEL MAR — The Breeders’ Cup World Championships, considered the pinnacle of thoroughbred racing, will return to Del Mar in 2021.
The worst-kept secret in the industry was officially revealed Aug. 17 at the iconic seaside race track.
“The Breeders’ Cup was an amazing time for us,” Del Mar Thoroughbred Club CEO Joe Harper said. “We had a wonderful time doing it last year. It was challenging. It was fun. … We had a ball.
“It really worked better than I think most of us thought it would work, and we’re looking forward to having it again in ’21,” he added. “I think that we’re probably the victim of our own success to some degree because we’ve got to come up with a lot of new stuff and we’re working on it already.”
When Del Mar first hosted the event this past November, the two-day on-track wagering total of approximately $25,181,320 was a 21.4 percent increase over the 2016 running at Santa Anita Park. The total handle of nearly $166,077,500 was the highest since 2010 at Churchill Downs, which held two more races than Del Mar.
In all, 69,970 people attended — 32,278 on Friday and 37,692 on Saturday — with daily ticket sales capped at 37,500 to avoid lines and overcrowding.
Although there are only two days of racing, visitors’ average length of stay was five days, providing a $100 million economic impact to the region, Joe Terzi, president and CEO of the San Diego Tourism Authority, said.
About $30 million of that was direct spending in the communities, he added.
“We have very few events that deliver that much economic impact in a very short period of time,” Terzi said. “This is an amazing opportunity for San Diego, for Del Mar, for our entire region.”
About $1.1 million went to the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Josh Rubenstein, DMTC president, said, adding that multiple out-of-state stables are now running horses at Del Mar because of their experiences during the Breeders’ Cup.
“It was a win for everybody,” he said.
The 2021 event should result in higher earnings for the district, Rubenstein added, because Breeders’ Cup plans to fund a $1 million race.
Del Mar racing officials have been hinting for months that a return to the famed facility seemed inevitable. Negotiations stalled the announcement until this month.
The day before the official announcement, The Los Angeles Times reported the other future host sites as well — Santa Anita next year and Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, in 2020.
Craig Fravel, Breeders’ Cup president and CEO, made the announcement Aug. 17 at Santa Anita in the morning and Del Mar later that day.
He described the first Breeders’ Cup in 1984 as one of the “major miracles in the history of horseracing.”
“It’s been going strong and getting better and better every time,” Fravel said. “It’s really something to look forward to. Now we have three full years to make sure that when we do this again we do it even better than last time.”
“Not that long ago we were wondering if this would ever happen,” Terzi said. “After it happened, we were wondering when it was going to come back, and now we know that.”
“How much better could it be than to be in Del Mar with the beach in the background with the best horses running?” Terzi asked. “We look forward to making 2021 even a better year.”
This year the Breeders’ Cup is at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. In 2021, the 38th running will be Nov. 5-6.