Skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

Del Mar Gears Up For Super Bowl Of Horse Racing: The Breeders Cup

Joe Harper, CEO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, welcomes potential owners t...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Joe Harper, CEO of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, welcomes potential owners to the Thoroughbred Owners Conference in Del Mar, preceding the Breeders Cup, Oct. 30 2017.

Del Mar is gearing up to host the Breeders Cup, the Super Bowl of horse racing, for the first time this weekend. Horse racing is on the decline, but big meets like this still attract plenty of fans and plenty of money.

Tickets for the Breeders Cup can cost more than a $1,000, but they are all sold-out for the big day on Saturday. Event organizers decided to cap the number of attendees at just over 37,000.

Joe Harper, president of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, said the Breeders Cup is a big deal, and ever since the first one in the 1980s, he has been thinking about how to improve the Del Mar racetrack so they could host it.

“We built a new grandstand and new race courses and made over a $100 million worth of improvements," he said, “and always at the back of our minds is this day coming up, so it’s really cool.”

The fastest horses in the world are coming to Del Mar to compete for a $28 million purse. For many of the people coming to the meet, it is their first time visiting Del Mar, Harper said. Some estimates put the economic impact on the San Diego region at more than $75 million.

However, horse racing as a sport is on the decline for many reasons, and revenues from the annual Del Mar Races have been falling.

A report commissioned by the New York-based Jockey Club in 2011 concluded that only 22 percent of the general public have a positive impression of the sport, and without new growth strategies, thoroughbred racing will decline by 44 percent from its peak in 2003.

The Thoroughbred Owners Conference in Del Mar this week coincides with the Breeders Cup, and aims to attract new investors interested in owning a share of a race horse.

Billy Koch, founder of Little Red Feather Racing and a former Breeders Cup winner, said you do not have to be a millionaire to own a race horse. His syndicate helps people buy a share of a horse.

“It’s just so much more affordable and a lot less risk obviously," he said, “and you can have as much fun as a 100 percent owner but you don’t have all the financial burdens of owning a race hose — and you still get to go out to the track and bring your friends and family and enjoy the day."

The winner of the Breeders Cup Classic on Saturday stands to win $3.3 million.

The races start on Friday and general admission tickets to the track are still available for advance sale, as long as you don’t need a seat in the stands.

Del Mar is gearing up to host the Breeders Cup, the Super Bowl of horse racing, for the first time this weekend. Horse racing as a sport is on the decline, but big meets like this still attract plenty of fans, and plenty of money.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.