If you assume this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships will be the first and last at Arlington Park, you may very well be wrong. If the Oct. 26 event meets with the satisfaction of Breeders' Cup, Arlington could become a regular host facility for the event.
In an interview the morning of Oct. 22 at the Breeders' Cup command center, a fenced-in trailer complex in the Arlington parking lot, Breeders' Cup president D.G. Van Clief Jr. said he hopes the Illinois track makes the grade.
"The best result would be an event that performs at a level that would substantiate Arlington serving as a future host site," Van Clief said. "We need to have a good day that makes an on-target contribution to the combined National Thoroughbred Racing Association/Breeders' Cup budget. Chicago is an attractive proposition for potential corporate partners, and we think it's the kind of marketplace that provides high visibility for the event."
Arlington has been a challenge for Breeders' Cup organizers because of the large number of temporary seats that had to be erected. The Arlington version of the World Thoroughbred Championships will serve as a guide for Lone Star Park, the Texas track that has been named as the 2004 host site.
"This is going to be an immensely valuable experience," Van Clief said. "It will have a direct impact on getting Lone Star up to speed for the event."
When asked if the move to somewhat smaller facilities is designed to heighten the demand for Breeders' Cup tickets by making them a premium commodity, Van Clief said that isn't the case. He said there is something to be said for "maximizing the value of the event," but that customer service and achieving revenue goals are key components of the equation.
The Breeders' Cup rotation has been mapped out for the next four years: Santa Anita Park in 2003, Lone Star in 2004, probably Belmont Park in 2005, and Churchill Downs in 2006. Van Clief wouldn't comment on discussions for 2007.
Van Clief said the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, which operates Meadowlands and Monmouth Park, continues to express an interest in the event. The Maryland Jockey Club, which operates Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course and has a deal pending to sell a majority interest to Magna Entertainment, has not contacted Breeders' Cup, he said.
Mid-Atlantic racing associations, as part of a deal to rejoin the NTRA, said they would like the region to be considered as a World Thoroughbred Championships host.
When asked if even Keeneland, despite some physical obstacles, would be considered if it expressed an interest, Van Clief said: "Yes, we would."
On the sponsorship front, Van Clief said the NTRA/Breeders' Cup would like to have a title sponsor for each of the eight races (there currently are five), but it's not do-or-die. The Classic division could be the toughest one to sell, he said, because it "could be worth a considerable number."
There could be another sponsorship announcement before Oct. 26, Van Clief said, but he wouldn't provide specifics. During the NTRA annual meeting Sept. 30 in Las Vegas, officials said they were very close to closing a sponsorship deal with FedEx.