Zipse: The Breeders' Cup must be moved from Santa Anita Park

June 25, 2019 11:07am

In a sport where the overwhelming majority of people I've met care far more about horses than do the general public, everything we know and love about the game has come under harsh scrutiny by those who wish to put an inglorious end to the pastime.

For this reason, there is no choice but for the Breeders' Cup to move its 2019 championships from Santa Anita Park.

No one wants to see horses die. That's true of racing fans and horsemen as much as anyone. But through closing weekend of Santa Anita's season, a staggering 30 horses perished as a result of injuries in racing and training.

Whether caused by an unseasonably wet winter, preexisting conditions, medication usage or a bit of bad luck, the rash of equine fatalities is unacceptable.

The industry realizes this, of course, given the immediate reaction to enact new safety policies at Santa Anita and an overarching theme last spring of racing reform.

But a major push from the animal activist group PETA and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among others, has forced Thoroughbred racing into an uncomfortable position. The outside world is basically telling horse racing to clean up or get out, with a growing emphasis on the latter.

This pressure might ultimately be a good thing for racing. Such outcry can lead to needed change.

For its part, Santa Anita, owned and operated by
The Stronach Group, has taken measures. From a temporary closing of the track, to safety maintenance on the racing surface, to stricter medication rules, there has been a concerted effort to improve the situation and become the standard for safety in American racing.

The latest move came controversially: the ban of Hall of Fame trainer 
Jerry Hollendorfer from The Stronach Group's properties. In essence, ownership pointed the finger at a trainer with more than 7,000 career victories as running horses not fit to compete at their racetracks.

As it applies to the 2019 Breeders' Cup, though, theses efforts are meaningless.

Imagine if a horse died during the Breeders' Cup this year at Santa Anita. The public relations disaster would be the ruin of horse racing as we know it in the United States.

That's the worst case scenario. But what is the best case scenario of holding our end of year championships with Santa Anita as the host?

Every horse safely runs their race and comes back sound. That is what we all want, but that is not how mainstream media will cover the event.

Regardless of outcomes, the overriding story going into and throughout the weekend would be the horses that died during the first half of the year. All the great races contested at the Breeders' Cup would be a mere footnote to the general public.

"How could they hold these races at a track where all those horses are dying?"

The answer, of course, is that they cannot.

The Breeders' Cup will host a board meeting later this week in Lexington, Ky. The meeting is a regularly scheduled one, but this year the No. 1 topic will be far different than the usual subject matter. 

Churchill Downs is said to be the alternative should the Breeders' Cup board look elsewhere. Simply, t
he Breeders' Cup has no choice but to move. The sport simply cannot afford the consequences otherwise.


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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