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Del Mar lands the Breeders’ Cup for 2017

DEL MAR — They did it.

Officials at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club have been successful in their efforts to bring one of horseracing’s most prestigious events to San Diego, where the turf meets the surf.

The Breeders’ Cup will take place Nov. 3 and Nov. 4, 2017, in Del Mar. Although rumors of the race coming to the seaside venue began circulating a few days earlier, it became official on June 10.

“We are very pleased to announce Del Mar as a first time host site for the 2017 Breeders’ Cup World Championships,” Craig Fravel, president and chief executive officer of Breeders’ Cup Ltd., said in a press release that described the facility as “one of the most iconic tracks in the country.”

“Over the years, Del Mar has established an extraordinary reputation for outstanding racing, entertainment and first-class hospitality,” added Fravel, DMTC’s former president and general manager. “We are excited by the energy and support of the local San Diego community and their efforts to make the 2017 World Championships one of most successful in our history.”

For those unfamiliar, the Breeders’ Cup was created as a year-end championship for North American thoroughbred racing. The inaugural event was held at Hollywood Park in 1984 with seven races competing for a total of $10 million in purses.

Purses for the 2014 races are between $1 million and $5 million each.

Since 2007 the Breeders’ Cup has been expanded to a two-day race with recent combined total attendance of approximately 100,000 people, depending on where it is held.

By comparison, opening day at Del Mar has attracted about 47,000 people for the past few years. This year’s attendance at the Triple Crown events — the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes — was approximately 164,500, 123,500 and 102,000, respectively.

Santa Anita will play host this year for the eighth time, tying it with Churchill Downs, best known for the Kentucky Derby. Next year it will be held for the first time at Keeneland Racecourse in Kentucky 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Then it’s back to Santa Anita in 2016.

As host of three Super Bowls and the annual Comic-Con, San Diego should have no trouble accommodating the Breeders’ Cup.

It’s expected to be a boon to the region’s hotel, restaurant and retail businesses during a traditionally slow time of year.

As for the Del Mar venue, officials have been preparing for a while. This past September they broke ground on a $5 million project to widen the turf track so it will accommodate 14 horses, a requirement for the Breeders’ Cup.

But officials said the main reason for the expansion is to increase safety for the jockeys and horses.

Officials and residents in Del Mar and adjacent Solana Beach have for years been trying to find ways to ease impacts caused by major events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, especially the San Diego County Fair and summer horse meets.

Facing the equivalent to back-to-back opening days — plus about 10,000 more people each day — there is little doubt traffic and from the Breeders’ Cup will be felt.

But at least one city official is confident the benefits will outweigh the impacts.

“Hosting the Breeders’ Cup is a big coup for Del Mar and a plus for the region as a whole,” Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner said. “While Solana Beach residents and businesses will most likely be inconvenienced that day, I believe we will collectively plan, prepare and enjoy the excitement of the event.”

“We are thrilled that the Del Mar racetrack has been selected to be the home of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup,” Del Mar Mayor Lee Haydu said.  “We look forward to working with the fairgrounds and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club to prepare for the expected large number of attendees to minimize the impact to our community.

“Through capital improvement projects like the recently approved streetscape improvements, the city is continuing to implement projects that benefit both residents and visitors. The planned new sidewalks along Jimmy Durante Boulevard will ensure race enthusiasts have safe, easy access to Del Mar’s vibrant downtown to access our award-winning restaurants and a variety of hotel accommodations.

“It is our goal to be well-prepared to welcome the expected high volume of attendees to this exciting event,” she added.