Del Mar could seek to host Cup again soon

Horse Racing

DEL MAR, Calif. — Del Mar successfully hosted the Breeders’ Cup races for the first time on Friday and Saturday, and it may not be long before the famous San Diego-area racetrack seeks the event again.

“I think we’ll be back,” track president Joe Harper said on Sunday. “It’s up to the Breeders’ Cup.

“The Breeders’ Cup people — the ones I talked to — were happy. I think we’ll be looked at in a different light.

“Everything went fairly smoothly. I didn’t have too many concerns.”

The Breeders’ Cup will be held at Churchill Downs next Nov. 2-3, the ninth time the event has been held at the Kentucky track. The locations for the 2019 event and later years have not been announced.

In addition to Del Mar, Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., is expected to seek the event in coming years. Santa Anita has hosted the Breeders’ Cup on nine occasions and in six of the last 10 years, most recently in 2016.

On Friday and Saturday, Del Mar capped attendance at 37,500 to better accommodate racegoers at a venue much smaller than Churchill Downs or Santa Anita. Friday’s attendance was 32,278, while Saturday’s audience was 37,692.

The crowd figures were similar to the 34,128 who attended opening day of the summer meeting in July. Opening-day crowds in the summer were above 40,000 from 2005 to 2016.

Reserved seats for the Breeders’ Cup races were sold out in advance and were more expensive than in past years, reflecting demand. Harper said a future Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar would have a similar audience limit and ticket structure.

“I think that’s a great number,” Harper said. “You could get to mutuels.

“I think it’s one of the more profitable Breeders’ Cups. You have higher-end areas to sell. You don’t have to cram 45,000 people in there.”

Harper said one remarkable aspect of the weekend was Friday’s ontrack handle of $9.28 million, a 29 percent increase over the corresponding day at Santa Anita.

“I was surprised with the handle,” Harper said. “I didn’t think it would do that well.”

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