I was a little surprised with this week's news that horse racing's world championships, better known as the Breeders' Cup, will be headed back to Southern California and the familiar surroundings of Santa Anita Park in 2012. Mind you, I believe Santa Anita is a wonderful host for the Breeders' Cup, but I can't help wondering if the championships have strayed from the original ideals set forth nearly thirty years ago.
In a twelve year stretch from 1996 until 2007, the Breeders' Cup was held at nine different racetracks. In fact, when Monmouth Park hosted the event in 2007, it marked the sixth consecutive year where it was held at a different venue. In simple language, the Breeders' Cup got around. As a fan, I enjoyed these years. Since then, the world championships have, or will be run at Santa Anita, Santa Anita, Churchill Downs, Churchill Downs, and Santa Anita. I fear the days of seeing the richest weekend in sports being celebrated in places like Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, and Ontario, Canada are in danger of being lost forever.
I think we can all agree that the Breeders' Cup is racing's most important event in America, if not the world. Sans the hoopla of the Kentucky Derby, it truly brings the best horses together for a climatic conclusion of the season, division by division. Such an event should not be permanently held at only one, or two places. Can you imagine a Super Bowl always held at the same stadium? I can't. How about if the Yankees are in the World Series every year, meaning we get the pleasure of seeing Yankee Stadium every single October. Yawn.
I realize I only speak for myself when I say I enjoy the diverse locales, but I hope the majority of race fans out there will stand up and say they want to see the Breeders' Cup in their area. Staging the Breeders' Cup in a different place each year provides the viewer an opportunity to see the best horses running in different climate, landscape, and of course, on unique racetracks. It also provides local fans the chance to watch the best horses running on their home track. What could be more exciting than that?
It can be argued that different locations on a yearly basis, create logistical problems for those who run the event, and those who may need to work harder to get their horses in the starting gate from year to year. Are these really good enough reasons to limit our world championships? I know what my answer would be.
Weather is another case I hear made a lot. Santa Anita is likely to be sunny and warm, while many other places are not. So what? I want to see great horse racing in 40 degree, 60 degree, and 80 degree weather. And what if it rains? So be it. That's all part of the sport. The day horse racing moves into an indoor arena, with not a drop of outside weather, is the day I stop following the game. These feelings are the same way I feel about golf, by the way.
Maybe the majority would disagree with me, and opt for only one permanent location, but to me this takes away from the feeling of a fair and balanced championship weekend of racing. Some horses will like Santa Anita better than others. That is a fact. Therefore a permanent location will always be less fair than a Breeders' Cup that moves from year to year. Imagine if you owned a horse of this kind of quality, only to also know that your horse did not run his best at the permanent site of the Breeders' Cup.
Please understand, I am not trying to indict the good people at Breeders' Cup for the recent stagnation of the location of their signature event. I'm quite sure there are numerous factors that go into these decisions, and they are not solely accountable for why we are seeing the traveling world championships have their wings clipped, but I for one, am more than a little disappointed that it has happened.