The Breeders' Cup :: A Horse of A Different Color

by Tim Parks

Rage Monthly

Saturday October 28, 2017

The Del Mar Race Track will play host to the Breeders' Cup on Friday and Saturday, November 3 and 4, bringing with it all of the prestige that is synonymous with this rousing equestrian event.

The annual series of Grade 1 Thoroughbred horse races are operated by Breeders' Cup Limited, a company founded in 1982, with the races themselves becoming a track staple in 1984. For 33 years, the Breeders' Cup has been considered the par excellence of the horse racing world, with riders literally jockeying for position and to be included in the Hall of Champions. The organization also began Breeders' Cups Charities in 2008 as a charity outreach program that benefits "aftercare for horses and jockeys [and] to local charities" where the Breeders' Cup is being hosted.

The Rage Monthly chatted with Peter Rotondo of the Breeders' Cup to find out why it has become known as quite a horse of a different color, in terms of its extravagance, celebrity participants and of course, the fashions.

"The Breeders' Cup World Championships is a two-day World Championship horse racing event: It's the Super Bowl meets March Madness meets the Olympics. The Breeders' Cup showcases the best of the best, the best horses, owners, breeders, trainers and jockeys at the best venues with prize money of $28 million spread over two days and 13 races," says Rotondo. "It started out as seven races in 1984 and has grown to 13 races and more than 28 million dollars in purses and awards. In addition, more than $160,000,000 will b wagered over the two days of racing."

There are a variety of different races to bet on that transpire during the two-day event, including Juvenile Turf, Filly and Mare S and Las Vegas Dirt Mile, among others. Rot explained the differences between some of these races. "There are 13 different Breede Cup Championship races run over the two days. These races are run at various distances for varied age groups on turf (grass) and dirt for colts (boys) and fillies (girls)," he explained. "In comparison, the Kentucky Derby is one race for just three-year-old horses."

Celebrities play an important part in the Breeders'Cup and can serve as ambassadors in the promotion of the occasion. Kate Upton, Bobby Flay, Bo Derek, Elizabeth Banks and Carson Kressley have all lent their time and love

of all-things equestrian as celebrity spokespeople. Rotondo told us how they become involved as ambassadors. "Breeders'Cup reached out to sports and Hollywood, looking for stars who had an affinity for horses or horse racing to be part of the Breeders' Cup family," he explained. "These ambassadors promote and attend the Breeders' Cup regularly and push the event via social media. We're always looking to add to our roster."

Of course, horse races such as The Kentucky Derby, opening day at The Del Mar Race Track and the Breeders' Cup are known for attendees sporting fashionable looks. It might seem curious to bystanders as to why that would be a "thing" at a horse track, but Rotondo cleared it up for us. "Fashion is a major part of many racing events around the world," he said. "Breeders' Cup is a global racing event with fashion trends from around the globe, meeting at our Championships."

Rotondo said that those in attendance at the Breeders' Cup can expect "everything," as he explained. "There is something for everyone, from the best horses, jockeys, drinks, fashion, betting, food and just plain fun," Rotondo detailed. "We have a fashion event each day, coupled with a food festival in the infield with surprise musical performances throughout the day. Plus, you can win thousands, even millions, for a few dollars."

The Del Mar Racetrack

The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club got off to a running start in 1937, with actor and crooner Bing Crosby greeting guests at the front gate. Crosby was a founding member of the new racetrack, as well as serving as a member of

its Board of Directors and the Breeders' Cup Handicap at the Del Mar Races is named in his honor.

More than likely, his involvement "Where the Turf Meets the Surf" made it a playground for Hollywood stars of the day. In 1938, the second largest horse-racing venue in the United States featured a celebrated race between Seabiscuit and Ligatori, which was broadcast nationally on NBC Radio. During this era, horse racing was ranked second behind baseball as America's favorite sporting event, and the tradition has continued since then -- though there was a two-year respite due to World War II, during which the facility was utilized as a training ground for Marines and subsequently as a manufacturing site used in the creation of parts for B-17 bombers.

In 1946, the Santa Fe Railroad offered a racetrack special that catered to spectators and betters alike, bringing them down from Los Angeles. The racetrack's popularity continued to grow throughout the remainder of the 1940s and into the 1950s, with the purses growing larger by the year and the participation of such famed jockeys as Bill Shoemaker.

During the '60s and '70s the racetrack continued in popularity, though it wasn't until the '80s that the infield became open to spectators. Then in the1990s, the grandstand received a big makeover, with the original building being torn down and a new one erected.

In 2000, in an attempt to draw a younger and more feminine crowd, an emphasis was placed on the more fashionable elements of the track's events and the famed Opening Day with its hat contests and parties.

In 2013, construction began to expand the turf of the racetrack, which allows for more horses to race and a fall meet was added the next year, due to the closure of the Hollywood Park Racetrack.

Now in 2017, for the first time in its illustrious history, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will host the prestigious Breeders' Cup Friday and Saturday, November 3 and 4.

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