10/30/2017 5:56AM

Breeders' Cup just the beginning of Del Mar meeting


DEL MAR, Calif. – So much enthusiasm and energy has been devoted to the first Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar on Friday and Saturday that the rest of the season has been understandably overlooked.

The meeting, which begins with a nine-race program Wednesday, will continue through Nov. 26.

While there are no seven-figure purses after the Breeders’ Cup, the final three weeks of the meeting include 11 days of racing and a bumper finish with eight graded stakes on the final four days.

“When the circus moves on, we’ll still be here,” track president Joe Harper said last weekend. “You can’t just go on vacation.”

This week is all about the Breeders’ Cup. Reserved seats are sold out for Friday and Saturday. The track has capped attendance at 37,500 for both days to better accommodate customers.

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Harper and his staff will host thousands of visitors from out of town and other countries who are seeing Del Mar for the first time. Many are diehard racing fans and industry insiders the track hopes to lure back for vacations, or in the case of owners and trainers, to participate in races later this month and at the track’s summer meeting.

“I think people will be surprised not only by the track but the surrounding area,” Harper said. “It’s pretty cool.

“I love seeing the trainers that have never come out. I think when they see it and understand it a little better, they may even send some horses.”

After Sunday’s program, racing will resume Nov. 10 for a three-day weekend, followed by two four-day weeks from Nov. 16-19 and Nov. 23-26.

This is the fourth year Del Mar has hosted an autumn meeting, following the closure of Hollywood Park in 2013. Del Mar has inherited Hollywood Park’s leading autumn turf races, including two Grade 1, $300,000 races – the Hollywood Derby on Nov. 25 and the Matriarch Stakes for fillies and mares Nov. 26.

The final three weeks of the season will largely cater to Southern Californians. The track deliberately scheduled a three-day racing week Nov. 10-12 to allow for physical changes to the property after the Breeders’ Cup as well as a reboot to the remainder of the meeting.

“The locals will come back out,” Harper said.

Tom Robbins, Del Mar’s vice president of racing, said there are slightly more than 3,000 available Thoroughbreds in Southern California that will provide a pool of runners. This year’s Del Mar summer meeting averaged 8.6 runners per race, compared to 8.3 runners at the 2016 summer meeting.

“It’s good news and it’s very positive,” Robbins said. “We have some interest, as we always do, for the end of the meeting.”