Breeders' Cup returning to Del Mar in 2021

The great Gun Runner had barely returned to the barn after his victory in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic before talk began of bringing horse racing’s two-day championship event back to Del Mar.

It was not a matter of if, but when, and the Breeders’ Cup brass didn’t waste any time in making the call.

On Friday, there will be a string of announcements that the two-day Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anita in 2019, Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.) in 2020 and Del Mar in 2021. The news was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Craig Fravel, Breeders’ Cup president and CEO, will be at Santa Anita and Del Mar for the announcements, according to the Times.

Joe Harper, Del Mar’s CEO, told the Union-Tribune just before the start of the current Del Mar meet that “serious” talks were ongoing and that he thought it likely the track would next host in 2021.

A second Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar became an attractive prospect with the success of the event last November. Horsemen and visitors raved about an experience that was unlike any other in the previous 33 years of the Breeders’ Cup, and people showed their pleasure by betting in record amounts

Even with attendance capped at about 37,500 for each day at Del Mar, Breeders’ Cup officials said the two-day, on-track wagering total was $25,181,317 — the highest ever for the event, which was expanded from one day to two in 2007. That handle was a 21.4 percent increase over the two-day total at Santa Anita in 2016.

The total combined handle of on- and off-track betting for the two days was $166,077,486 — an increase of 5.9 percent over 2016 and the highest since the 2010 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs, when there were two additional Cup races.

On the day after the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup, Fravel told the Union-Tribune, “My preliminary read is that it’s a place we have to come back to. I got 20 emails from people saying that it was a home run. The overall experience was great.”

In March, the Breeders’ Cup announced that a study by Sports Management Research Institute concluded the event generated $96.8 million in direct or indirect benefits to San Diego — the highest figure for any Breeders’ Cup.

The addition of the Breeders’ Cup in 2021 marks a noteworthy year for major sporting events in San Diego. In June 2021, the U.S. Open will be held for the second time at Torrey Pines South.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup is set for Nov. 2-3 at Churchill Downs, the ninth time the Louisville, Ky., track has hosted the event. Santa Anita will feature its 10th Breeders’ Cup next year. Keeneland hosted for the only time in 2015.

According to the Times, Santa Anita has been talking to the Breeders’ Cup for most of the year and at one point thought it would be able to make an announcement as early as May. But negotiations with all the tracks dragged and contracts were not signed until just recently.

tod.leonard@sduniontribune.com; Twitter: @sdutleonard

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