Republican Sen. Damon Thayer

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer

Anne M. Eberhardt

Amid Turmoil, KY Lawmaker Makes Case for BC

A Kentucky lawmaker is making another pitch to Breeders' Cup.

As Breeders’ Cup considers a future host site schedule complicated by recent actions in California, a Kentucky lawmaker has reiterated the state’s favorable tax climate and called it a “win-win” when the World Championships is held in the Bluegrass State.

Republican Sen. Damon Thayer, a former Breeders’ Cup executive and sponsor of related legislation in Kentucky, sent a letter May 19 to members of the Breeders’ Cup board of members and trustees outlining tax credits of up to $1 million a year. The Kentucky General Assembly this year passed a bill stating the credit will be given if Breeders’ Cup has a contract in place by Nov. 4 to hold the World Championships in Kentucky in 2011, 2012, or both years.

“I explain all of this as you contemplate site selection for the foreseeable future,” Thayer said in the letter e-mailed to media outlets. “I certainly hope Kentucky will play a major role in the future of the Breeders’ Cup, and it is clear, by its recent actions, the entire General Assembly agrees.”

Thayer said the World Championships has an economic impact of about $30 million for Kentucky, and claimed Churchill Downs “has always been the event’s most lucrative venue.”

Breeders’ Cup is considering a racetrack rotation or committing to one location for a period of time. Oak Tree Racing Association at Santa Anita Park is considered the front-runner for selection as a permanent site—for a period of consecutive years—but MI Developments’ recent announcement it has ended the Oak Tree lease at Santa Anita sent Cup officials scrambling.

Breeders’ Cup must select a 2011 host site soon--it's actually behind schedule--but isn’t under the gun to enact the long-term plan. The California developments, as well as ongoing turmoil in New York, have improved the chances of Churchill, this year’s host, to be tabbed again for at least 2011.

"There seems to be a lot of instability out there," Thayer said in follow-up comments May 21. "In my view, Kentucky provides a safe haven, and the most lucrative safe haven, by the way.

"I wanted to make the (Breeders' Cup) board aware of the incentives in Kentucky, which are actually better than they were two years ago (under a previous law). Hopefully Breeders' Cup will return to Kentucky in 2011, 2012, or both years."

Thayer said the 2006 event at Churchill generated $5 million to $6 million in revenue for Breeders' Cup, a high figure when compared with other host sites when he worked for the organization.

There are complicating factors. Though Churchill is considered a desirable location, owner Churchill Downs Inc. is said to have made several demands, even concerning the naming of certain races, hindering negotiations, industry officials have said. On the plus side, permanent lighting at Churchill now provides Breeders' Cup with options should it want to tinker with post times and experiment with a prime-time event.

Breeders’ Cup may not have to commit beyond 2011. MID, already under serious fire as the new owner of Santa Anita, said it will resume negotiations with Oak Tree June 4 and, if recent developments are any indication, the New York Racing Association should be on much firmer ground by next year.

Under the legislation passed in Kentucky, if Breeders’ Cup doesn’t commit to 2011 or 2012, the tax credit would go to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (80%), the Kentucky Standardbred Development Fund (13%), and the Kentucky Quarter Horse Development Fund (7%).