BC Ramps Up Hospitality, Seeks 'Elegance'
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
The Breeders' Cup marquee facility at Santa Anita Park.

Breeders' Cup is well on its way in executing a strategy to enhance the World Championships experience for owners, breeders, and trainers.

The Breeders' Cup marquee facility was added last year on the backstretch at host site Churchill Downs, but this year at Santa Anita Park, traffic has increased dramatically. The temporary structure, which has an indoor eating and seating area and more tables underneath a canopy on the second floor, is located just beyond Clocker's Corner near the head of the stretch.

Morning food service is provided by Wolfgang Puck. The facility is climate-controlled and offers an excellent view of morning workouts.

Breeders' Cup board member Barry Weisbord, who along with Bobby Flay and Roy Jackson sits on the Breeders' Cup Enhanced Experience Committee, said the hospitality initiative stemmed from discussions during a workshop.

"We talked about the need to be more impactful and do a better job with hospitality," Weisbord said. "We didn't get started until well into last year. We had been to a lot of food events and saw how people respond to the food business. It's a social event–you break bread before you go to war."

The morning hospitality facility is one part of the strategy. Breeders' Cup this year will offer a "Toast to the Winners" area where winning connections can celebrate, and there is a fan party at which 350 fans selected through a database will have a chance to meet about 30 facilities.

The paddock area will be expanded to accommodate more people with ties to horses in Breeders' Cup races. And then there is the "Ambassador Program," whereby well-known Thoroughbred owners such as Flay spread the word about racing and Breeders' Cup in their travels, including at evening events during Breeders' Cup week.

The trackside marquee facility may have to be expanded given its popularity this year.

"People that come actually have a chance to meet other people in the business," Weisbord said. "It's designed for owners, breeders, and trainers, but we might have to change that game plan. We're trying to make people feel special.

"The underpinning of what we're trying to accomplish is elegance, which is essential to all horse racing in the world. That has been a little lost in America."

Breeders' Cup chairman Tom Ludt said tickets will be sold for the marquee facility on the two World Championships days Nov. 2-3 given its amenities and view of the racetrack. The goal is to perhaps find a company or two that would like to entertain clients or employees during future editions of the event.

"One of the goals of Breeders' Cup is to enhance the sport," Ludt said. "We want to take care of owners, but it's a very challenging thing. If we're trying to enhance the experience, what happens if there are 100 people in a partnership? These are things we have to deal with, but we want people to think, 'How do I get back here next year?' "

Ludt said the three-man committee will continue to evaluate how to improve existing offerings and perhaps add new ones. He noted the marquee hospitality area was embraced at Churchill in 2011, but in Southern California it has a different feel because of how Santa Anita is laid out.

"Anything that is successful has a way of catching on," Ludt said.

Terry Finley, president of West Point Thoroughbreds, said he left the Breeders' Cup board just as the hospitality committee was getting started. Finley, who puts together partnerships, said he likes what he sees.

"Overall, I couldn't be more pleased," Finley said. "Kudos to the committee, which has done a beautiful job. Every year you learn a little more. There are a lot of things not right with the industry, but there are things we do right, and Breeders' Cup is at the top of the list.

"This is a great addition for owners, because let's face it, it's not cheap to come to the Breeders' Cup. Most people show a negative return on investment."

Fasig-Tipton Co. is a contributing sponsor of the morning marquee facility. Breeders' Cup continues to look to create such niche sponsorship opportunities for interested companies in and outside of the horse racing and breeding industry.

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