8:30 AM EDT, June 10, 2013
Southern California horse racing will get some good news Monday at a time of gloom over the upcoming closure of Hollywood Park. The Breeders' Cup will announce it will return to Santa Anita for an unprecedented third straight year in 2014.
Craig Fravel, Breeders' Cup chief executive, said the Breeders' Cup board was "enjoying its current partnership with Santa Anita." He also said its broadcast partner, NBC, was happy with the weather and time slot presented by a late fall racing weekend in Southern California.
The Breeders' Cup is the largest event in the sport outside of the Triple Crown series. It features two days of racing in various thoroughbred age and gender divisions, with most of the races worth at least $1 million and the showcase race, the Classic, offering a $5-million purse.
This year's Breeders' Cup racing at Santa Anita, the second in the now three-year-run, will be held Nov. 1-2. The 2014 races will be Oct. 31-Nov. 1.
Fravel was careful to point out his board had made no determination on the series having a permanent home, although that is something Santa Anita has pushed for since its smash success in 2009. That was the year Zenyatta won the Classic and attendance was 96,496.
The next year, when she attempted to repeat and finished a close second, it was at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., and the attendance was a record 114,353.
The Breeders' Cup began in 1984, and since then, nine sites have been used. Churchill has had it the most often, eight times. Santa Anita will match that in 2014.
Fravel said the possibility of ongoing rotation of the event remained and he confirmed Belmont Park and Churchill continue as active bidders.
"And Del Mar made a presentation at our recent meetings," Fravel said, "so they remain interested."
That first Breeders' Cup in 1984 was held at Hollywood Park. Now, that legendary Inglewood facility will close its doors after its last race Dec. 22 and become a real estate development.
That has sent California racing officials scrambling to adjust the racing calendar and retain its stature in the area's sports culture. Santa Anita, according to Keith Brackpool, its new chairman of owner Frank Stronach's West Coast racing operations, is not only willing, but eager, to fill the void.
"There's not a lot to argue about Santa Anita being the right place for the Breeders' Cup," said Brackpool, who clearly has a desire for more than just being a part of a Breeders' Cup rotation.
'We've got a lot going for us. The weather, the time slot for network TV. It isn't always nice the first weekend of November in New York or Louisville, Ky. You also need to think about the sponsors. Emirates Airlines has been a Breeders' Cup sponsor, but Emirates doesn't even fly into Louisville, Ky.
"We got a report from the Beverly Hills Marketing Assn. They said that, next to Christmas week, the biggest shopping time for them was when there was a Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita."
Brackpool, the former chairman of the California Horse Racing Board, said Santa Anita is undergoing a multimillion-dollar face-lift.
"Having the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita three years in a row," he said, "is a huge step in the right direction. It's also a testament to horse racing in California."
In recent years, the Breeders' Cup format, expected to be similar this year and in 2014, held six races Friday and nine Saturday, with the grand finale Classic ending the program. It has dropped one race, the Juvenile Sprint, so the program probably will have five races Friday worth a total of $7.5 million, and the usual nine Saturday, worth a total of $17.5 million. That's a total purse of $25 million.
"We are interested in a good day of racing for our fans, as well as a good experience of food and entertainment," Fravel said. "We get that at Santa Anita."
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