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History and tradition on display at Breeders' Cup

'Super Bowl' of horse racing returns to Del Mar
Breeders Cup Del Mar Statue.png
Breeders Cup Del Mar Paddock.png
Posted at 6:07 AM, Nov 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-05 15:16:48-04

DEL MAR, Calif. (KGTV) - The Breeders' Cup returns to the Del Mar Racetrack for the first time since 2017, bringing with it nearly four decades of history and tradition.

"It's the Super Bowl of racing," says Breeders' Cup CEO Drew Fleming.

The event began in 1984 when breeders worldwide wanted to create a single, unified championship for the end of the racing season. Fleming says the sport, until that point, had been primarily regional.

"You had great racing in California, great racing in the Midwest, and then great racing in New York," says Fleming. "We needed (a way) to determine who the best horse is."

The first Breeders' Cup featured seven races with $7 million in prize money, held in LA. Fleming says the event's founders knew it would take a lot of money to draw the best horses from around the world.

"Now we have 14 races for $31 million," he says. "It's the richest two days of racing in the world."

Over the years, the event's stature has grown along with its prize money. The Breeders' Cup is now considered the top event in the sport.

It has also developed a handful of unique traditions. Chief among them is the iconic horse trophy. It's a replica of a horse statue built in 1580, inspired by DaVinci's drawings of horses. The original statue is now on display at the University of Edinburgh.

For the Breeders' Cup, the host track gets to display the replica every year. Winning horses get smaller versions.

Winners also get unique purple and gold flower garlands. The flowers, a combination of Beauty Asters, Golden Asters, Cremons, and Catteleya Orchids, have been grown exclusively for the Breeders' Cup since 1988.

The Breeders' Cup also has a rich history of drawing elite horses. The most famous may be in 2015 when Triple Crown winner American Pharoah ran in the event.

It was the first time since the Breeders' Cup began that a horse won a Triple Crown. American Pharoah then completed the "Grand Slam" of horse racing by winning the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Unlike the other Triple Crown races, which stay at the same track every year, the Breeders' Cup moves around the country.

It came to Del Mar for the first time in 2017. That year's event was such a success that organizers quickly decided to come back.

"What's not to love? We're right here on the ocean. The weather's amazing," says Fleming. "Del Mar is a great partner of ours. They have the same mission and vision for having the best thoroughbred in the world."

Fleming has already said the event will return to Del Mar soon. He hopes this track can help make more Breeders' Cup history for years.