Del Mar Breeders' Cup 2017
Craig Fravel, CEO of The Breeders' Cup (far left)
Craig Fravel, CEO of The Breeders' Cup (far left)
As the world’s finest thoroughbred horses explode through the starting line at the Breeders’ Cup World Championship, a surge of excited anticipation will command Del Mar’s track. It’s the first time Del Mar will showcase the championship; and while it’s no stranger to the thrill of a horse’s allure or its unique racing capabilities, its status is about to be elevated to one worthy of international recognition. Naturally, the CEO of the prestigious Breeders’ Cup, Craig Fravel, is elated. “It’s such a thrill to watch the finest horses and racers. The Breeders’ Cup at its core is about the racing... and Del Mar is a prominent location. For me, it’s a great opportunity to introduce the venue to the world.”
Surely if anyone knows the greatness and charm of the Del Mar racetrack, it’s Fravel. He was the track’s Executive Vice President for 20 years before being made General Manager and President in 2010. Not long after, he joined the Breeders’ Cup as CEO where he makes the equine magic happen today.
Of course, the incomparable beauty for which Del Mar is famous made the decision to host the 34th edition of the Breeders’ Cup a winning bet. “Everything about the Breeders’ Cup will have some influence around the ocean. We’re very focused on where the turf meets the surf. (Event) venues will be by the ocean,” explains Fravel. The Breeders’ Cup is an event that draws in an elite international crowd fascinated by equine excellence and the glamor of the event’s star-studded parties.
A horse depicts majesty. A creature born with the finest of equine attributes, the horse has aided humanity through history with grace, grandeur and the necessity of travel. Today, we find we’re still just as attached to their appeal whether they’re racing in championships or allowing a child to gaze into their deep eyes. So, when breeders’ from central Kentucky created the Breeders’ Cup in 1984, the bet that it would be as captivating as the animal itself won. Since then, the championship quickly sprinted off into what is now considered the most important part of the racing calendar.
“It’s really the quality of the horses and the incredible international variety of them,” Fravel muses. Indeed, horses from all over the world, including France, Peru and Ireland (just to name a few) make their debut at the starting line. There are 13 races during the two-day affair whereas Fravel explains “each and every horse represents the best of their quality.” This is the gold lining of horse racing; the creme de la creme of what’s often hailed as the equine venue of the year. Or, as Fravel sums it up, “The Breeders’ Cup is the Superbowl and Olympics of horse racing.” But, Fravel acknowledges that the relationship between horse and human is far more important than only racing is concerned. Many people find great comradeship with a multitude of animals; but when it comes to horses, we often find a preeminent connection.
In fact, when it comes to the history of people and their favored horse, there’s often an almost magical tale. From Greek mythology and folklore to the celebration of horse and cowboy, we find the beast connects to humans on a level that for many is instinctual. “People have an affinity with horses. The history of people and horses goes back so far, there’s a visceral connection,” Fravel says. So visceral a connection in fact, that today many of the Breeders’ Cup horses are showered with gifts from their human friends. Horses such as Best Pal and Zenyatta (to name a few) receive fan mail, flowers, and cards. And of course, if permitted, admirers who come by to visit them. Last year’s Breeders’ Cup winner, Arrogate, is another spellbinding horse with numerous fans. Arrogate’s athleticism and heart sets him apart from other competitors. As manager of Juddmonte Farms, Garrett O’Rourke explains, “Arrogate is a spectacular looking horse. He’s steel gray with a tremendous aura and energy. He’s one of those horses that when you look at him, he looks like a war horse. He’s an iconic equine star.” Indeed, Arrogate’s championship win last year at Santa Anita Park proves as much—he carries his title with pride. “He’s quite an energetic horse, but he’s big and he’s an eyeful. He looks important and he carries himself as if he’s important. I think he knows he’s the best horse in the world.” For a worldwide top-ranking horse, Arrogate is appropriately proud of his accomplishments. As is his dedicated jockey, Mike Smith. Together, they make an intense team. One which many fans can’t wait to watch race again.
This year’s Breeders’ Cup already has Del Mar fired up for a memorable two-day extravaganza. Spectators can’t wait to watch the finest thoroughbreds stampede to the finish line where the turf meets the surf at old Del Mar. The Breeders’ Cup World Championships take place on November 3 and 4, 2017. www.breederscup.com.