Magna-NTRA Deal Could Lead to Cup for Oak Tree

Now that Magna Entertainment has reached a membership agreement with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the Breeders' Cup championship day races are destined for the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita.

"I've been meeting with the Breeders' Cup, and there's another meeting scheduled soon," Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president of the Oak Tree Racing Association told the Los Angeles Times. "We hope to get the date and we're very optimistic."

Chillingworth said that no contract has been signed with Oak Tree, which runs its meet at Santa Anita, for racing's big year-end day in 2002, but other sources indicated that the Breeders' Cup and Oak Tree are close to a deal, according to the Times.

Under the merger agreement between Breeders' Cup and NTRA, only NTRA-member tracks can host racing's championship day event.

The newspaper reported that Chillingworth felt that he had made progress in convincing the Breeders' Cup that Oak Tree shouldn't be penalized merely because it was a Stronach tenant. He was not without bottom-line ammunition. When the NTRA was formed three years ago, Oak Tree was one of a small number of racing groups that each put up $1 million in seed money. Since then, Oak Tree has been pre-paying its annual dues, of about $100,000, to help the NTRA with cash-flow problems.

"We're obviously a big NTRA supporter," Chillingworth told the Times. "Del Mar, for example, might like to host the Breeders' Cup one of these years. Would they be excluded just because their landlord [the state's 22nd Agricultural District] wasn't a member of the NTRA?"

Oak Tree had been penciled in as the host of the Breeders' Cup last year, but Churchill Downs stepped in because of concern that Santa Anita's construction program would interfere. Starting in 1984, three of the first four Breeders' Cups were held in California, but since 1994 the only Breeders' Cup run on the West Coast was at Hollywood Park in 1997.