When Sherwood Chillingworth remembers the last time Santa Anita Park hosted the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships in 1993, the Oak Tree Racing Association executive vice president concludes the event has matured greatly in that decade span.
"It's much easier for a track to prepare now," Chillingworth said. "Most of the department heads were here in 1993, so it isn't a new experience for us. But also, Breeders' Cup asks less from us because now they have a lot of their own staff to use. They bring their own portable buildings for offices and plan the media party; in prior years that all would have been our responsibility."
Santa Anita, owned by Magna Entertainment Corp., and Oak Tree have been preparing for racing's marquee event for the past eight months. Chillingworth said department heads meet once a week to go through a checklist of projects and policy needed to host the event Oct. 25.
Among the starkest changes between this year's Breeders' Cup and the one in 1993 is the heavier security. At the heart of the security plan are 22 state-of-the-art detection gates that will greet fans at the track's high-volume entrances.
"It's a very intricate security plan," Chillingworth said. "With these devices you can discern the difference between a money clip and a knife, for example, so that way you don't have to stop everyone."
Conventional detection devices will be used at other gates.
Track officials are hoping for a crowd of 60,000 at the Breeders' Cup. Chillingworth said preparations have included two walk-throughs of the facility to repair all minor blemishes. "We have painted every little glitch," he said.
Santa Anita will add two new video screens to the infield, one on each turn, and has installed a new tote board that will display 14 betting interests. Trackside boxes, similar to the ones used in 1993, will be added, as will reserved seating for 1,200 people in the infield. A guaranteed seat in the infield will cost $15, and a seat and buffet lunch will run $50.
"This is a major effort, but everything right now is perfect," Chillingworth said. "We opened our grass course this week, and the reviews have been ecstatic. We're going to have one hell of a show."