The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held in 2009 at Santa Anita Park, the California racetrack that will serve as this year’s host. It marks the first time the event will be held at the same host site two years in a row.
The 2008-09 events will be held during the Oak Tree Racing Association meet. Santa Anita’s winter/spring meet is operated by track owner Magna Entertainment Corp.
The announcement comes as Santa Anita is working to fix its synthetic Cushion Track racing surface, which proved unable to handle heavy rain. Tests have shown a new formula using a liquid binder from Pro-Ride, another synthetic surface manufacturer, will correct the problem, but that remains to be seen.
Breeders’ Cup and Oak Tree officials are working to conclude the formal host-site agreement, which is expected to include economic incentives from the state of California. The Breeders’ Cup historically generates in excess of $50 million in annual economic impact for host states, officials said.
The Breeders’ Cup has been held in the same market in consecutive years. Three of the first four events were held in Southern California, beginning in 1984 at Hollywood Park, at Santa Anita in 1986, and again at Hollywood Park in 1987.
Oak Tree at Santa Anita has held the Breeders’ Cup three times: in 1986, 1993, and 2003. This year’s event, which marks the 25th anniversary, will be held Oct. 24-25.
“We are excited about the prospect for consecutive years in America's second-largest media market,” Breeders’ Cup chairman Bill Farish said in a statement. “Santa Anita is a fantastic venue, and the Oak Tree Racing Association has been a great partner during our 25-year history.”
Breeders’ Cup officials said the decision to return to Santa Anita doesn’t indicate a permanent change to a consecutive-year format, and that future host sites would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Breeders’ Cup president Greg Avioli couldn’t be immediately reached for comment after the Feb. 7 meeting to talk about the decision and whether there was discussion about the ongoing surface reconstruction project at Santa Anita. In a statement, he said talks with other host sites would continue as usual.
“We will pursue discussions for the 2010 Breeders’ Cup and years beyond with Churchill Downs, Del Mar, and the New York Racing Association, among others,” he said.
Ongoing issues in Thoroughbred racing could have played a role in the decision to tab Santa Anita in back-to-back years, but officials couldn’t be reached to comment on whether that was the case. It's not easy to find a host site given the current climate and the fact Breeders' Cup needs to plan well in advance.
Breeders’ Cup and Churchill Downs, which has sought a larger share of revenue for hosting the event, have been unable to reach an agreement thus far. Racing in New York has been up in the air for quite some time as NYRA awaits a long-term extension. Arlington Park, which hosted the Cup once (2002), is owned by Churchill Downs Inc.
Monmouth Park, last year’s host site, is awaiting word on a purse subsidy that would allow it to maintain its purse structure for future years. Gulfstream Park, another former host site, has been redeveloped into a much smaller venue that probably couldn’t host a Breeders’ Cup. And Hollywood Park could close at some point in the near future.
Over the past three years, the World Championships has experienced unprecedented growth, with total races expanding from eight to 14, and total purses increasing from $14 million to $25.5 million. The 2007 Breeders’ Cup marked the first time the event was conducted under a two-day format.
“We are pleased that Breeders’ Cup has placed this confidence in Oak Tree and our Santa Anita management team to host the Breeders’ Cup in consecutive years,” Oak Tree executive vice president Sherwood Chillingworth said in a statement.
Oak Tree is a not-for-profit organization. All of its net profits go to charitable entities, predominantly those that are equine-related.