Racing to the Top
Breeders’ Cup CEO draws top horses to premier racetracks
Craig Fravel ’79 likes to say that he only joined the thoroughbred racing business because, “like most lawyers,” he was looking for something to get him out of lawyering.

Fravel, the president and chief executive officer of the Breeders’ Cup, had little background in racing when he took the bit in his teeth. While working at a law firm in San Diego, he was given the legendary Del Mar racetrack as a client. In 1990, just eight years after earning his law degree at the University of Virginia, Del Mar’s board hired him as executive vice president. He advanced to president and CEO a decade later.

“I have always liked to be involved with things where people have fun, and racing is certainly one of those things,” says Fravel.

After 21 years at Del Mar, Fravel moved on to the Breeders’ Cup, promoting, marketing and putting on the series of high-purse championship races held each November at a different prestigious American thoroughbred track. This year’s races will occur occur Nov. 2–3 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Fravel now commutes between San Diego and Lexington, where he supervises two dozen employees who work year-round to put on the festival-like event.

Craig Fravel on a field with a horse
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/BloodHorse
Fravel spends half his time in Lexington, Ky., home base for the Breeders’ Cup.
Even though Fravel grew up in Baltimore, he didn’t visit the local Pimlico track, where the Preakness is run, until he worked at Del Mar.

“Once I got to Del Mar, though, the excitement and fun of a big event really attracted me,” says Fravel.

Surprisingly, another Bucknellian, Fred Hertrich III ’68, who owns more than a dozen East Coast auto dealerships, is board chairman of the Breeders’ Cup.

“It is purely coincidental,” says Fravel. “We didn’t know each other or [plan to] stack the board with Bucknell grads.”