Originally published in the Oct. 1 edition of Blood-Horse Daily. To download the Blood-Horse Daily smartphone app or to receive the edition in your inbox each evening, visit BloodHorse.com/Daily.
Though the Breeders' Cup is still a month away, organizers already say many signs point to it being the most successful on several levels since the event was inaugurated in 1984.
Breeders' Cup will be held for the first time at Keeneland in Central Kentucky, not a major media market. But it is the center of the North American Thoroughbred breeding industry, and the Lexington community has played a major role in creating a weeklong festival, the first of its kind for a Breeders' Cup.
"We believe more people are coming for an extended period of time this year," Breeders' Cup chief operating officer Bob Elliston said. "The projected economic impact of $65 million for this year's event might be a conservative estimate. When you look at our 2014 information for hotel rooms, gross receipts, and spending, it appears to be higher in 2015."
Breeders' Cup has reserved about 4,200 hotel rooms in the Lexington area. Elliston said there has been word several private regional airports are at capacity in terms of private aviation bookings.
Ticket revenue is expected to be the highest of any Breeders' Cup held so far, primarily because of the added seating capacity in upscale temporary structures and box areas. Previous Breeders' Cups have employed temporary seating but nothing on the level of this year.
"What we have been able to (compensate for a smaller grandstand) is put in premium seating," Elliston said. "That has increased revenue, and we haven't artificially raised prices just because of demand."
The more than 30 events tied to the World Championships—those presented by Breeders' Cup and others offered by the Lexington and horse communities—represent not only the most in one year but more than all previous 31 Breeders' Cups combined, Elliston said. Also, an unprecedented 400 volunteers are assisting with the festivities.
"The amount of enthusiasm and anticipation has far surpassed any previous Breeders' Cup," Elliston said. "In Southern California there may be five or six events on Breeders' Cup day that are just as big. In Central Kentucky, when the Breeders' Cup is there, it's the biggest event in town, so it lends itself to big optics."
Elliston said based on the positive returns so far, officials anticipate using aspects of the Lexington Breeders' Cup as a "measuring stick" for future host sites. The event will be held in Southern California in 2016-17, with no announcement yet on 2018 and beyond.