The racetrack company was bypassed for the 2009 Breeders’ Cup when it was announced Feb. 7 that Oak Tree at Santa Anita would host the event, making the Southern California track the first location to stage the event in consecutive years.
Speaking on behalf of CDI president and chief executive officer Robert Evans, corporate spokeswoman Julie Koenig Loignon said Churchill Downs had submitted a written proposal that offered to host the Breeders’ Cup “numerous times” over a seven-year period. She said that the proposal also included an offer to serve as an emergency fill-in site in the case of natural disaster or other circumstances.
“We were set to jump in and help if there were some other issues that would have prevented a host site that had been designated from hosting,” she said.
Breeders’ Cup officials have not elaborated on why Churchill Downs proposal was not chosen, and Koenig Loignon said CDI has not heard an official response on the rejection.
“We were really hoping to hear something back from the Breeders’ Cup management team on what we submitted,” she said. “We had not received a formal response or counter-proposal as of (Feb. 7).”
Koenig Loignon said she couldn’t comment on the specifics of the proposal, such as whether Churchill Downs sought a higher share of revenue. Track officials complained following the 2006 races at Churchill Downs that the bottom-line return wasn’t worth the effort in staging the event after Breeders’ Cup Ltd. took its share of revenue.
“What we had suggested was a way we believe would grow revenues for the overall event,” Koenig Loignon said. “We certainly want to see the Breeders’ Cup event grow not only from a revenue standpoint, but also from creating more public interest in the event.”
Koenig Loignon said Churchill Downs was also aware that, without hosting the Breeders’ Cup in 2009, a Kentucky law providing an excise tax exemption on handle at such events would expire. The savings realized from the exemption numbered in the hundreds of thousands of dollars during the 1998 and 2006 Breeders’ Cups at Churchill Downs.
“We are very aware of it, and sensitive to the fact that exemption is of value to the Breeders’ Cup,” she said. “There was the possibility that it would not be renewed, and that was something that we communicated in the written offer. We also know that the event has very nice economic impact, not only for Kentucky, but our home city of Louisville.”
The proposal only included staging the event at Churchill Downs, and not at any of the other tracks in CDI’s fold, such as Arlington Park, which hosted the event in 2002.
“I think everyone knows that the years it comes to Churchill are good years,” said Koenig Loignon, adding CDI would be willing to consider other of its locations.
Churchill Downs has been the site of six Breeders’ Cups and holds the top five totals for single-day on-track attendance for the event, including the all-time record of 80,452 set in 1998. The all-sources handle record of $140,332,198 was also established at the 2006 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs.