Anne M. Eberhardt

Churchill to Make Major BC Announcement

Track is host to this year's World Championships and is possible 2011 host.

Churchill Downs, the host of this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships and listed as a possible site for the 2011 event, has announced that track executives, Breeders’ Cup officials, and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will have a special announcement at the Louisville, Ky., track on June 11.

On hand for the announcement will also be Breeders' Cup chairman Bill Farish, Breeders' Cup president and CEO Greg Avioli, Churchill Downs Inc. president and CEO Bob Evans, and Kevin Flanery, Churchill Downs Racetrack president and CDI senior vice president.

If the Breeders’ Cup returns to Churchill Downs for the eighth time, the organization will qualify for a break in the pari-mutuel tax levied on the two-day event in both 2010-2011.

Legislation passed by the Kentucky General Assembly provided for the tax break, estimated by state Sen. Damon Thayer to be worth up to $1 million a year, if the Breeders Cup committed by Nov. 4 to have the World Championships in 2011 or 2012, or both years. From then on, the tax break would remain available as long as the event returns at least every three years.Thayer, a Republican, pushed the legislation that changed the previous tax break offered the Breeders’ Cup and was signed into law by Democrat Beshear.

Thayer, a former Breeders’ Cup executive, previously said that when the Breeders’ Cup was last held at Churchill Downs in 2006, it generated $5-$6 million for the organization.

At its regular meeting April 22, Breeders’ Cup deferred action on a site for 2011 and beyond. It has been widely reported that the organization had been considering various options, including a proposal to establish a permanent site at Santa Anita during the Oak Tree meet. Subsequently, Santa Anita voided its contract for the non-profit Oak Tree to conduct its meet at the California track through 2016; Oak Tree plans to conduct its meet this year at Hollywood Park.

Dennis Mills, the chief executive of MI Developments that owns Santa Anita, told The Blood-Horse on June 9 that Oak Tree would have been unable to have its meet at Santa Anita this year if the track undertook plans to replace its artificial track surface. Mills said that Santa Anita’s consideration of replacing its current surface was in part due to a letter from Avioli.

Breeders’ Cup "wanted a tested surface (at Santa Anita for 2011) and not the one that exists there right now," Mills said of Avioli’s letter.