Thursday, October 22, 2009

Breeders' Cup Host-Site Plan in the Works

By Tom LaMarra

Breeders’ Cup management is working on a five- to 10-year rotation of racetracks to serve as host sites for the World Championships.

Breeders’ Cup president Greg Avioli said Oct. 20 the plan is “still in development and hasn’t been presented” to the organization’s board of directors. That probably will come early next year.

Avioli, who was on hand Oct. 17 for three major Breeders’ Cup prep races at Woodbine in Ontario, Canada, told the Toronto Star the Toronto-area track, which hosted the Cup in 1996, could be in the mix as a future host site.

“We’re working on a rotation with a set number of tracks,” Avioli told The Blood-Horse. “They would become, on many levels, strategic partners of Breeders’ Cup. Host-site agreements would become part of a broader deal. There are important details we’re still working through, including revisions to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge and Stakes schedules.”

After this year at Santa Anita Park, the World Championships will be held at Churchill Downs in 2010. No host site has been selected for 2011; Avioli said the planned rotation probably would kick in that year and perhaps run through 2020.

A number of tracks—previous hosts and want-to-be hosts—have expressed interest in having the Cup, including Arlington Park, Del Mar, and Monmouth Park. The proposed broader host-site deal apparently would deal with some financial issues tracks have raised.

As for Woodbine, Avioli said it’s “the perfect setup” for a racetrack with slot machines, and that racing is well-accommodated at the facility. Woodbine plans to build entertainment and lodging facilities on site, perhaps beginning next year.

As far as this year’s 14-race World Championships, it appears there is increased interest from the connections of European horses. In 2008, a record 31 international starters competed.

“From the indications we've received, I think this year we’ll be in a position to exceed that amount,” Avioli said.

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