|Craig Fravel - President and CEO, Breeders' Club|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 08 November 2013 17:00
In July of 2011, Craig Fravel began as President and Chief Executive Officer of Breeders’ Cup Limited, following more than 20 years managing the daily operation of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and serving as a leader of various Thoroughbred industry organizations.
During Fravel’s 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..
Fravel served as chairman of the Southern California Off-Track Wagering, Inc. (SCOTWINC) and was chairman of the statewide California Marketing Committee. He also serves on the board of Equibase, the official provider of racing data for the Thoroughbred industry; 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.
You were named as the CEO of the Breeders’ Cup in 2011 having worked in horse racing for some time. How big of an achievement was it for you personally to be handed the position?
I was in a great position in Del Mar and I had a truly wonderful life out there. However, it was time to try something different and certainly the Breeders’ Cup is one of three or four jobs in horse racing that people aspire to. It was a great honour for me to get the chance to do it.
What were your main aims and goals when you stepped into the position?
I think every job has a bit of a transition period and one of the things about the Breeders’ Cup that is very different to running a race track in California is the international component of it. Recognising, in particular the challenges that are associated with maintaining nominations and other revenue sources from all over the world, not just from conducting live events, has taken a bit of time. I have got to know people who I did not know before and learn about their concerns, deal with them and build relationships with people overseas. I think that has been a really fun part of my job too.
Do you think you have overcome this transition period and achieved the goals you wanted to?
One of the things we spoke a lot about when we came in was to be an efficient operator but also to make the Breeders’ Cup a “must do” event. We also wanted to make it a real party event, on top of just a horse racing event. Certainly following this year’s event we are getting to the place we really want it to be at.
You just mentioned this year’s competition, which has just been. How successful was it and what are your overall feelings now the event has passed?
As an operator sometimes we can get a bit bogged down with some of the details. Whenever anything goes wrong you can take it a little bit personally. We have to be careful not to focus too much on that and instead focus on the overall positives of the event. Our wagering activity is up significantly, our attendance is up and everyone who was there who I spoke to had a great time with very few exceptions. More importantly, when you take a step back we had some really great horse racing and winners from all over Europe, the US and it was truly a group of international winners. I thought it showcased horse racing in a terrific way.
Does that help you globally to reach new markets?
Oh definitely. If people have confidence that they can come here and be successful then they will keep coming. We had that experience from New York, Kentucky, the UK and Ireland. I think it was a tremendous success from that stand point and so next year there will be interest in people wanting to come back.
Reports show that the attendance was up by 3.5% from last year. Have you reached your target and why do you think the attendance figures are up?
I think the attendance figures have gone up because we are much more aggressive in getting a presence in the market place. Also people know when they come they are going to have a great time. More importantly they also know they are going to see great horses and we certainly presented that to them this year.
What has been done over the years to improve the experience for fans, which could explain some of the reasons for the attendance increase?
This year was the first time we had tried some other events on the infield. We had a concert and festival which we did on a relatively small scale. We didn’t go for one big Rolling Stones type headliner, instead we got our feet wet to see how it work operationally. I think it came off really well. A good part of our attendance growth was people who were attending in the infield and I think that is something we can definitely grow on. We have added and changed our surrounding events and we will continue to expand the footprint of the Breeder’s Cup earlier and put on some other events that add to the overall experience of the weekend.