The Breeders' Cup has never been held at the same venue for three consecutive years before, but with today’s announcement that the World Championships will return to Santa Anita in 2014, we now know that this is about to change. The decision by the Breeder’s Cup means the Arcadia, California oval will host the event for the third straight season.
Scheduled for October 31 and November 1, next’s year’s Breeders’ Cup will be the eighth held at Santa Anita in the event’s 31-year history. The Great Race Place previously hosted in 1986, 1993, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012, and of course, will host the 14-race, 2-day event later this year. No other race track has hosted it as many times.
In a press release announcing the choice, Craig Fravel, the Breeders’ Cup president and CEO said, "Santa Anita has proven to be an outstanding host for our Championships, providing horsemen and fans around the world with a first class facility and one of the greatest experiences in sports. We are delighted to extend our partnership with Santa Anita for a third consecutive year.”
A key partner of the Breeders’ Cup, the NBC Sports Group, was, to no surprise, supportive of the Santa Anita choice. “We are excited that the Breeders’ Cup has chosen to return to Santa Anita,” said Jon Miller, President of Programming, NBC and NBC Sports Network. “The backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains at dusk makes for a beautiful setting for a great two days of the world's best racing, topped off by the Breeders’ Cup Classic in primetime on NBC.”
In addition to the advantages for television, and the obvious allure of the Southern California weather in the fall, the Breeders’ Cup also seems to be attracted to the glitz and glamour of La-La Land. “In addition to being the two-greatest days in Thoroughbred racing, hosting the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita for the next two years provides us with the opportunity to further develop the Breeders’ Cup brand as a world class entertainment and lifestyle platform,” said Drew Sheinman, Breeders’ Cup Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.
As far as down the road, and whether Santa Anita is potentially poised to become a permanent home of the Breeders’ Cup, officials indicated that no decisions have been made on where they will hold the World Championships after 2014. According to the announcement, The Breeders’ Cup remains open to visiting markets that can accommodate the two-day event during its traditional fall timing, provide world class hospitality for its participants and guests and showcase the world’s best Thoroughbred racing.
In other words, the Breeders’ Cup will continue yearly negotiations to decide on the best place to hold the event in 2015 and beyond. All things considered, clearly there is no race track better equipped to host the Breeders’ Cup than Santa Anita, but is that enough to justify hosting the event for multiple years in a row, or possibly becoming the permanent home of the event?
Early fan reactions have been mixed, and the question remains, does holding the World Championships at the same place go against the original mission of the founders of the organization and event? Or does that even matter if Santa Anita is truly the best place for the Breeders’ Cup?
Maybe someday imagining the Breeders’ Cup anywhere but Santa Anita will be as strange as thinking about holding the Kentucky Derby somewhere other than Churchill Downs.