Santa Anita Park prepares for 2016 Breeders’ Cup

The 2016 Breeders' Cup is coming to Santa Anita Park

By Hugo Guzman

Managing Editor, Foothill Advocate

ARCADIA — The countdown sign outside Santa Anita Park proudly proclaims that the 2016 Breeder’s Cup, scheduled for Nov. 1-2 is just over 100 days away.

What it doesn’t say is that for the event to be a smashing success, the track needs volunteers for the Super Bowl of thoroughbred horse racing — hundreds of them.

The call for volunteers may be only a small part of the puzzle, but it’s no small task, according to Volunteer Coordinator for Breeder’s Cup Kaitlyn Lavo.

“There are so many pieces turning,” Lavo said.  Although most volunteers are local faces with experience (often in previous Breeder’s Cups), new faces are a necessary component and a  recurring theme, as Santa Anita Park does what it can to attract new fans to its friendly confines.

Volunteers are currently in the process of being recruited and vetted, and they’ll soon begin training. Their biggest duties will involve wrangling both racetrack guests and horse owners, but volunteers could find themselves doing anything from assisting photographers to driving golf carts for dignitaries.

Preparing the actual racetrack is a completely different effort. Laying down a new turf track will prove essential in providing optimal racing conditions, officials are installing a turf surface similar to that which is currently used at Del Mar in San Diego County.

That’s a relatively short-term renovation, compared to bigger projects expected to reach completion before the Cup. Over $35 million has been spent on renovating and improving existing facilities, such as lounges and private suites. The racetrack is aiming to become a premier destination for both date nights and corporate events, casting a wide net for potential racing fans.

But Santa Anita’s Director of Publicity Mike Willman isn’t too worried. This is Santa Anita’s ninth time hosting the Breeders Cup.

“We’re pretty familiar with how it’s done,” Willman said.

The racetrack is planning to step up its game in one key area, however. Transportation is a big deal this year, with Santa Anita relying on its successful partnership with Uber to draw in crowds. Visitors who choose Uber can expect a half-off discount, to or from the racetrack. Something else that’s been well-received is a free shuttle service offered by the racetrack, tasked with bringing people in from the Metro Gold Line, which opened earlier this year.

Both these services, as well as the renovations, are part of what could be considered the racetrack’s longest-term preparation, both for the Breeder’s Cup and beyond: Attracting a new generation of horse-racing fans. Willman is optimistic, but new fans aren’t born overnight.

“That’s a process. It’s an intricate game. For a lot of people it’s an acquired taste,” Willman said. “It’s one thing to get folks down here for one race, but another to keep them coming back.”

If you would like to volunteer for the 2016 Breeders’ Cup, email Kaitlyn Lavo at kaitlyn.lavo@santaanita.com with your name, address and phone number.

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