Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
The secret is out regarding the location of the next three
Breeders’ Cup World Championships. During the past month, I had heard from reliable
sources that the 2015 World Championships would be held at Keeneland Race Course
and it now seems to be official. Also, in 2016 the BC will return to Santa Anita, and in 2017, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will get its first chance to
host, according to multiple sources
Holding the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland marks the first time
that the Breeders' Cup will have a new host since Monmouth Park in 2007. It also means the
return to a somewhat smaller venue.
For Keeneland, this will present challenges as to how they
will handle the typical crowds of a Breeders’ Cup two-day event. The usual
Friday attendance should not present a problem, but a typical Saturday far
exceeds the 40,617 record crowd of Keeneland. The other one-time hosts
(Arlington Park, Monmouth, Lone Star, and Woodbine) were able to handle the
crowds, and I’m sure that Keeneland will also find a way to do so.
The chart on the left shows attendance and total handle
figures for all of the Breeders’ Cup tracks since its inception in 1984.
One-time hosts are highlighted in yellow and the data for the two-day events is
in light purple.
Even though the largest crowds and handle in both the
two-day and single day Breeders’ Cup events have come at Churchill Downs, that
Kentucky track is not in the future plans, at least not in the next three years.
In recent years Breeders’ Cup officials, and those from Churchill Downs have not
been able to come to an agreement about the sharing of revenue. Instead, the return to the Bluegrass State
will happen in Lexington at Keeneland.
After this year’s World Championships, both Santa Anita and
Churchill Downs will have served as host eight times and the Great Race Place
will break that tie in 2016. Belmont Park has been the BC site four times, but
not since 2005. Gulfstream Park has hosted three times, but not since the track
was renovated and the grandstand was significantly reduced in size. Hollywood
Park was also the home for the Cup three times.
It is probably not a coincidence that it took a change in
racing surfaces for both Keeneland and Del Mar to ultimately become Breeders’
Cup hosts. Keeneland is currently in the process of replacing its polytrack
with a state of the art dirt track that will be ready for its fall meeting. Del
Mar completely rebuilt its turf course in the past year and will tear out its synthetic
surface, which was installed in 2007, after this summer’s racing is over.
Santa Anita will be also be replacing its dirt surface with
a new dirt track. Work will be begin as soon as California racing switches to
Del Mar. The new dirt course will be ready for the Santa Anita fall meeting and
obviously this year’s Breeders’ Cup.
I am happy that Keeneland and Del Mar will get a chance to
host the Breeders’ Cup, as I believe that that was the original plan. Not all
racing fans can travel across the country to get to the Cup and they deserve
the chance to attend the great two days of racing. Hopefully, I will get there,
too, because those are two tracks that I have yet to visit.
In the meantime, I am happy to travel to Santa Anita again
this year The weather and the setting at that track has been nothing
but spectacular. Add in the new track surface, and hopefully the racing will
reach that same level of excellence.