Does a Breeders' Cup in California mean less people attend the Cal Cup two weeks later? Officials are asking that question after 10,000 fewer people attended Cal Cup XIV than the previous year's event. As a result, Oak Tree Racing Association officials are considering putting the Cal Cup in a different spot on the 2004 calendar.
Sherwood Chillingworth, Oak Tree executive vice president, said the day after the Nov. 8 Cal Cup he starting considering running next year's edition in mid-October. More than 28,000 people came to the Cal Cup in 2002, when the Breeders' Cup was run in Chicago. This year just more than 18,000 showed up at Santa Anita, which hosted the Oct. 25 Breeders' Cup. The event's attendance also took a hit in 1997, when Hollywood Park hosted the Breeders' Cup.
"When it first happened we thought it was a coincidence," Chillingworth said. "When it happened a second time we started to see the relationship. There may be a (downward) trend that has nothing to do with the relationship between Breeders' Cup and Cal Cup--it could be generic. This hasn't been chipped in stone yet, we're just discussing it."
Chillingworth said Breeders' Cup officials had previously asked the Oak Tree board to consider moving Cal Cup back in case a horse who performed well there could consider the Breeders' Cup as a next possible start.
"The problem is, we have such a short season, we are obligated to stack our Breeders' Cup prep races earlier in the year," Chillingworth said. "I think we had nine graded-stakes events in the first two weekends (of our meet) this year. We can't put Cal Cup on that weekend, so the next available is the third weekend in October."
Chillingworth said the proposal will be discussed with the Thoroughbred Owners of California and with the California Horse Racing Board in the near future, and a final decision won't be made until next June.