The 2017 Breeders' Cup at Del Mar
When looking at Del Mar's storied history, multiple dates stand out among the most memorable in the track's storied history. Opening day on July 3, 1937 will inevitably and deservedly be on the list, as will Labor Day 1970 when Bill Shoemaker overtook John Longden to become the winningest jockey in the world. August 10, 1991, the day of the very first Pacific Classic, ranks highly, as does the 1996 renewal when Dare and Go pulled off one of the most shocking upsets of all time when he defeated the heavily favored Cigar in the latter's quest to move past Citation with seventeen consecutive victories.
Four dates were just mentioned, all worthy ones. But two more dates deserve inclusion in the conversation: November 3 and 4, 2017.
On those pair of afternoons, Del Mar experienced something new in its then eighty-year history, one that did not seem possible fifteen to twenty years earlier.
For the first time, the Breeders' Cup came to the seaside venue.
Now, the autumn event was no stranger to Southern California when it arrived at Del Mar. Santa Anita had played host to it numerous times, and it made a couple of stops to Hollywood Park during the 1980s and 90s. But it had not yet visited Del Mar due to the fact that the track only hosted live racing in the summer for virtually all of its history. Traditionally, fall dates went to Hollywood Park going back to 1981 when the Home of Champions hosted its first autumn session.
But, everything changed in 2013.
That was the final year Hollywood Park was in business, which created a seismic impact on the local racing landscape. Santa Anita and Del Mar split the dates, and the latter track found itself with a second meet. This was actually not unprecedented, however. While Del Mar is known for taking center stage in Southern California each summer, there was a brief time when it attempted a fall meeting. The lone exception came in 1967, but it did not draw a lot of business, so the experiment was halted after that one try.
But the circuit was in a very different time nearly four decades later, and the Bing Crosby Season was formed in 2014 after Hollywood Park left the scene. Three years later, Del Mar was hosting the first of two of its biggest days ever. With tens of thousands in the stands, it played host to Breeders' Cup XXXIV.