The Breeders’ Cup returns to Santa Anita Park for the second consecutive year Friday and Saturday, with a total purse of $25.5 million.

For shops on Rodeo Drive and other upscale retail destinations, that could mean another big weekend. About 4,000 deep-pocket people – horse owners, trainers and their families – will be descending upon Southern California. The cup draws sheikhs from Dubai, royalty from Europe and horse breeders from across North America.

Most of last year’s sponsors have reupped, including Emirates Airlines and Dos Equis beer, and two newcomers have signed on: Montblanc and Judith Lieber handbags. Both brands will be hosting special events at their Rodeo Drive locations for horse owners, celebrities and VIPs prior to the races.

Montblanc, a 103-year-old Swiss company that specializes in writing instruments, decided to make the 2009 Breeders’ Cup its first sports sponsorship ever. Its new wristwatch line, the first designed in-house, has a historic connection to horse racing.

“The design was inspired by a watch commissioned by the French king in 1821 so that he could measure the speed of his horses,” Jan Patrick Schmitz, Montblanc chief executive, told the Business Journal.

The Montblanc Nicolas Rieussec watch is named after the maker of the 19th century timepiece. Distribution to retail stores began in September and prices range from $9,700 to $35,000, depending on the grade of materials in the watch. Montblanc will have a display near the owners’ boxes at Santa Anita on race days.

The Breeders’ Cup generally moves to different venues from year to year. The decision to use Santa Anita for two years in a row has helped drive interest in the event, although the cup plans to move to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., next year.

“People in the L.A. marketplace remember it from last year. More celebrities want to go this year,” said Carter Carnegie, Breeders’ Cup senior vice president of business

development.

That sentiment was echoed by sponsor Sentient Jet, a Weymouth, Mass.-based private jet service. It signed on for the first time last year.

“We have invited clients and prospects just like we did last year, but this year we are out of our allotment of tickets,” said Kevin Vaughan, Sentient Jet chief marketing officer. “The interest is due to Breeders’ Cup coming back to the same location for two years in a row. We are scrambling for extra tickets.”

Travel Time

West L.A.-based Schneider Publishing Co. Inc. boosted attendance at its annual Teams Conference dedicated to travel, events and management in sports last month. The conference brought 1,426 people to its New Orleans destination this year, up 20 percent from 2008.

This year’s conference included sessions on Chicago’s failed Olympic bid and an off-site visit to the Louisiana Superdome.

Schneider Publishing organizes the annual event, which has been recognized as one of the fastest growing conferences in the nation. The company also publishes two monthly trade magazines related to the sports travel industry, which centers on companies that promote attendance to major sporting events.

Punted

The brand-new United Football League, launched in September as an alternative to the National Football League, was supposed to make its L.A. debut Nov. 20 at the Home Depot Center in Carson. But those plans are off.

The new league has four teams, and one of them was supposed to be split between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. (The others are in the Bay Area; New York; and Jacksonville, Fla.) Billboards advertised the November game and tickets went on sale. However, league officials decided to keep the team in Vegas, hoping to expand to Los Angeles next season. Ticket buyers can get refunds – or travel to Sin City to see the game.

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

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