Breeders' Cup chairman Bill Farish acknowledged the organization's board of directors has some key issues it needs to address, not the least of which is the host-site selection process.
Farish was elected to a two-year term as chairman in August. Farish, whose family owns Lane's End Farm in Kentucky, previously served five years as Breeders' Cup chairman from 2006-11.
The issue of host sites has shadowed Breeders' Cup for many years. There has been talk of a small rotation of established sites; opening it up to new markets; finding a permanent host track; and setting a long-term schedule to facilitate planning and sponsorship development.
"We've got to set out an approach to the host-site issue," Farish said the morning of Oct. 29 at Santa Anita Park. "We've set the process in motion, and hopefully by the end of this year or the first quarter of next year we'll have a more permanent policy. We have to settle it once and for all."
Santa Anita will hold the Breeders' Cup this year for the seventh time. It's in the middle of a three-year run as host site, from 2012-14.
Farish was asked about the chances of Churchill Downs in Kentucky serving as host site in the future.
"I think the chances are very good," he said. "If we can rotate the event–and that's a real possibility–Churchill Downs absolutely needs to be part of that rotation. It makes all the sense in the world to have it there."
Churchill has hosted the World Championships eight times and has generated attendance and pari-mutuel handle records for the event.
Farish said what appears to be improvement in the bloodstock and auction market is "very important" to Breeders' Cup, which has relied heavily on nominations revenue since its inception in 1984. But with the Thoroughbred foal crop projected to continue its decline in the near term, alternative sources of revenue have helped Breeders' Cup maintain its $27 million World Championships and offer financial participation incentives.
"Nominations revenue is not as big a percentage of overall revenue as it once was," Farish said. "(Other revenue) has grown enough to absorb about a 50% reduction in nominations revenue. We're paying $27 million in purses, and we get about $12 million in nominations revenue, so we're not ready to give up that revenue just yet."
Breeders' Cup has had some years with a fairly large stable of race sponsors and others, like this year, with a handful. Farish said Drew Scheinman, hired in May as senior vice president and chief marketing officer, is spearheading the effort to cultivate sponsors.
Earlier efforts to land a title sponsor for the entire event were unsuccessful, though there have been individual title sponsors for a race or races.
"We have some very encouraging things in the works," Farish said, "and hopefully it won't be long before they come to fruition. This is a 30-year-old organization, and there has been ebb and flow (with sponsorships), but I think we're coming back to another positive stretch."
As for race-day medication in Breeders' Cup races, Farish said the organization stands by its previously stated mission but understands the devisive nature furosemide, also called Salix or Lasix.
This year's Cup races for 2-year-olds will be Salix-free, but in 2013 the anti-bleeding drug will be permitted under current policy. Plans to ban the drug in all Breeders' Cup races have been abandoned–for now.
"We've said we are for a uniform medication policy," Farish said. "We still want to work toward a Lasix-free event. But we can't just wave a wand and do the things we want to do."