What’s On My Desk: Breeders’ Cup CEO & President Craig Fravel

Craig Fravel
Craig Fravel

If you’re a horse racing enthusiast, you’re certainly going to be familiar with the Breeders’ Cup, one of thoroughbred racing’s most prestigious international events of the year. This year, the event will take place here at home in southern California on November 4th and 5th at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. Breeders’ Cup was last hosted at Santa Anita in 2014, and was recorded as one of the city’s most significant entertainment events in terms of economic impact. This year, the races will return to Santa Anita Park for its ninth time, currently the record for hosting the most Breeders’ Cups in history. Over the last few years, Breeders’ Cup has set forth a new, long-term growth strategy to establish itself as a preeminent lifestyle and entertainment brand. The new strategy, thanks to the organization’s CEO, Craig Fravel, seeks to bring a wider, mass appeal to the sport. The 2016 event is clearly an important milestone for Fravel, but it will be in 2017 that things will come full circle for the CEO—the Cup will be held at Del Mar and will be a homecoming for Fravel, who previously managed the daily operation of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club for over 20 years before joining Breeders’ Cup in 2011. During his time at Del Mar, the race track experienced unprecedented growth as a national leader in daily average attendance and wagering handle at its world renowned summer meeting by the Pacific Ocean just north of San Diego. Fravel oversaw the $80 million reconstruction of the track’s grandstand in 1992-’93, and the $9 million installation of a new engineered racing surface, which was completed in 2007. He was also a driving force in enhancing the customer experience of a day at the races and incorporating a program of music and entertainment at Del Mar while helping to increase its reputation as one of the most popular international venues in sports.While at Del Mar, Fravel emerged as a leading racing industry figure, serving in an advisory capacity for a number of organizations. Fravel served as chairman of Southern California Off-Track Wagering, Inc. (SCOTWINC) and was chairman of the statewide California Marketing Committee. He previously served on the board of Equibase, the official provider of racing data for the Thoroughbred industry. Fravel currently serves on the board of the National Racing and Medication Testing Consortium and as a director of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, where he had previously served as chairman. He is a member of The Jockey Club and serves on its Board of Stewards. Here, one of thoroughbred racing’s most important figures shares a peek at his desk with Haute Living. 


1. Photo of a Hunter/Jumper – My twelve year old Ireland is an accomplished rider and competed in the USEF Pony Finals this year at the Kentucky Horse Park. She finished 27th out of the 190 ponies that started on her best friend, Cabana Boy. She is living her dream and we love watching.

2. Photo of Wahoo Parking – Mr. Jefferson’s University is a place I always try to return to. When surrounded by the Big Blue Nation (UK), I try to put on a little orange and blue taking me back to my days at the UVA Law School and the Grounds.

3. Breeders’ Cup Trophy – This is the Torrie Horse that serves as the trophy for the Breeders’ Cup where I am President and CEO. It is an ecorche, meaning a type of sculpture that features the anatomical character of the horse and dates to the 16th century. The original is in Edinburgh, Scotland at the University.

4. Del Mar Racetrack Photo – My home for many years, Del Mar will be the site of the 2017 Breeders’ Cup and we are already well into planning efforts for that event. We couldn’t be more excited about heading to San Diego for our event and bringing the Breeders’ Cup Where the Turf Meets the Surf.

5. iPhone – I have a love/hate relationship with this thing.