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Churchill Gets 2010 Cup; More on Way?

Churchill Downs will host the 2010 Breeders' Cup, and is poised to host more.

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will return to Churchill Downs in 2010 to begin what could be a regular run of the Kentucky racetrack serving as a host site, officials indicated Oct. 8.

Churchill has hosted the event six times—the most of any track—and has accounted for six of the seven largest crowds. Churchill also produced the largest on-track handle and total handle for a Breeders’ Cup when it last hosted the event in 2006.

The announcement, made during a press conference at Churchill, followed more than a month of speculation Churchill would be named the 2010 host site. It also marked a major shift, as until a few months ago it appeared Churchill and Breeders’ Cup officials were at odds over a revenue-sharing deal the track would accept.

The World Championships expanded to two days last year, so 2010 will be the first year Churchill will host a two-day event.

“We appreciate the enthusiasm Churchill Downs has shown in bringing back (the World Championships),” Breeders’ Cup chairman William Farish Jr. said. “Obviously, we are anxious to get back here any time we can.”

“There is no community that supports the Breeders’ Cup like Louisville, the state of Kentucky, and southern Indiana,” Churchill Downs Inc. president and chief executive officer Bob Evans said. “That’s why we want to have it back here as many times as we can.”

The economic impact on the region as Breeders’ Cup host is $50 million to $60 million, according to estimates. In 2010, the World Equestrian Games will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington and end a few weeks before the World Championships, which tentatively is set for Friday and Saturday, Nov. 5-6.

In follow-up comments, Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Greg Avioli said Breeders’ Cup is seeking a “multi-year rotation” for the event, but it’s too soon to speculate on the tracks or the number of tracks that would be involved.

“You have to work out a formula before you come up with specific numbers,” Avioli said. “At the level of maturity of the property, we need to go beyond where we are right now.”

Breeders’ Cup will have its 25th running Oct. 24-25 at Santa Anita Park, which also will host the 2009 event. Thus far, it has been held at 10 different tracks, though most have been repeat hosts.

Avioli and Evans wouldn’t discuss details of the host-site deal in keeping with policy. They did, however, acknowledge the turnaround from earlier negotiations.

“What changed is we were able to work through some complicated contract issues,” Avioli said. “We had a lot of issues to work through. I think we’ve developed a template to have multiple Breeders’ Cups here in the future.

“Breeders’ Cup is a Kentucky-based organization, so it’s a great home for us. We have our best-performing Breeders’ Cup every time we come to Louisville. We don’t have the final plans set up for our next visit, but there are only a handful of tracks (that regularly host the event), and this is one of the best.”

Evans indicated both parties got what they sought in the deal, and Avioli said there were incentives. The revenue-sharing formula now includes the Friday program as well as the regular Saturday program.

Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson said he hopes Churchill gets the Breeders’ Cup every few years as part of a regular rotation. Still to be decided is whether Churchill will be eligible for a tax break from the state; the legislation passed several years ago will sunset, and the General Assembly will have to approve a new bill to cover future Breeders’ Cups.

The 2009 General Assembly session is “short”—only 30 days—and the state is in the midst of a budget crunch.

Word that Churchill probably would get the 2010 World Championships leaked out this summer when New York Racing Association president and CEO Charles Hayward told Daily Racing Form Breeders’ Cup officials said the event would be held at Churchill, not Belmont Park in New York per negotiations. Avioli addressed that issue Oct. 8.

“We never had a deal with NYRA for 2010, though we did have discussions about it,” Avioli said. “We hope to have another Breeders’ Cup back in New York.”

The latest Breeders’ Cup schedule—14 races over two days—is expected to be in place for 2010 at Churchill. Avioli said purses—currently $25.5 million in total—could increase for some races in future years.

Churchill will host its fall meet this year Oct. 26-Nov. 29. In previous years when Churchill hosted the Cup, the track opened its fall meet the Sunday before Breeders’ Cup weekend.