A visit to the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar

Shannon and I jetted down to San Diego this past weekend for the Breeders’ Cup, the World Series of horse racing. It was a “date night” ( or “date day.”) We enjoyed spending time together while our son stayed with good friends.

For the first time, the Breeders’ Cup was being held at Del Mar racetrack. We love Del Mar: the beach, the people, the restaurants, and the racetrack. The racetrack was built by a partnership including Bing Crosby in the ’30s. Historic pictures are all over the grounds.

A day at the races at Del Mar is half horse racing and half enjoying a view of the ocean from almost wherever you sit. It is laid back and quintessential California.

We spent the night at the famous U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego and rode Amtrak to the racetrack. It is a splendid way to travel to the World Series of horse racing. (Del Mar’s song goes, “Where the surf meets the turf down at old Del Mar, take a plane, take a train, take a car.”)

The Breeders’ Cup draws fans from all over. We shared our box in the stretch run with two brothers — one from Long Island, NY, and one from Chicago — and a mom and her son from New York. We enjoyed getting to know one another.

Jewell was on hand to sing the famous ditty “Where the Surf meets the Turf” before the races began. The Breeders’ Cup drew an enthusiastic crowd of 32,278 each day and on-track handle was $9.2 million, a 29 percent increase from the previous year.

We’ve been to the Breeders’ Cup before — at Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY; Belmont Park, NY; and Santa Anita, near Los Angeles. But this was the most rewarding of all those  experiences.

As it turned out, we came “full circle.” A highlight of our regular summer trips to Del Mar was watching  Candy Ride win the $1 million Pacific Classic in 2003, setting a track record. The horse was owned by Jenny Craig, the fitness expert, and her husband, Sid. We watched the race from a friends’ box seats that was near Jenny and Sid. We could see their emotions. Then Candy Ride retired.

This weekend Candy Ride’s son — Gun Runner — won the $6 million Breeders’ Cup classic. It was a “full circle” experience. We cashed out on this race.

The Breeders’ Cup is likely to return to Del Mar. “My preliminary read is that it’s a place we have to come back to,” Craig Fravel, CEO and president of the Breeders’ Cup, told the San Diego Union Tribune. “So many people hadn’t been here before. And to have that kind of sunshine-y day (on Saturday), that was the icing on the cake. It couldn’t have been a more beautiful day at Del Mar.”

Here’s Gun Runner winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic:

Here’s Candy Ride winning the Pacific Classic in 2003:

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

2 thoughts on “A visit to the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar”

  1. BTW, Dave Schmall, a former publisher of The Union whom I enjoy, is a regular at the Breeders’ Cup with his buddies. We saw him at Santa Anita last year. Dave dropped me an email after seeing this post. “What a fantastic time!” he said of Del Mar.

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