Arlington Park, being considered for the 2002 Breeders' Cup championship day races.

Arlington Park, being considered for the 2002 Breeders' Cup championship day races.

Breeders' Cup: No Done Deal Yet in Chicagoland

Breeders' Cup officials visited Arlington Park Tuesday to examine the facility, but the Arlington Heights, Ill., racetrack apparently isn't written in stone as the host for the 2002 Breeders' Cup. Arlington became a leading candidate when construction issues at Santa Anita Park threw a wrench into plans for the Oak Tree Racing Association to host the event there next year.

"It's not a done deal," said Damon Thayer, vice president of marketing for the Breeders' Cup said of Arlington. "It's not even close."

Thayer responded to a report in the Chicago Tribune, in which a source was quoted as saying it was a done deal that Arlington would get the 2002 Cup.

Thayer was one of the officials who went to Arlington for a site-selection tour. Arlington had been mentioned as a potential new host site for 2003, the year racetracks that haven't yet hosted a Breeders' Cup may be thrown into the mix. Breeders' Cup officials previously visited another potential new host track, Lone Star Park near Dallas, Texas.

Arlington is owned by Churchill Downs Inc., whose Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., has hosted a record five Breeders' Cups. It also owns Hollywood Park, another Breeders' Cup host site that may be under consideration to replace Oak Tree as 2002 host.

Magna Entertainment, which owns Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., plans more renovations there that apparently won't be completed by the fall of 2002. Oak Tree Racing Association operates the meet at Santa Anita, and thus would have been the official host of the Breeders' Cup. "At this time it appears unlikely we will be going to Oak Tree for the 2002 Breeders' Cup," Thayer said. "So we are looking at all of our options for host sites next year."

Thayer said a site survey encompasses several aspects of the physical plant--the quarantine area, size of the turf course -- but also the size of the market, possible government incentives, and the support of host community, and host committee. "The government incentive and host committee support are crucial in determining where we are going to take this event and when," he said.

No date has been selected for the 2002 championship day, either, since the television contract with NBC Sports expires after this year. The date may hinge on whether NBC renews its agreement or the championship moves to a different network.