Breeders’ Cup 2012: Santa Anita in driver’s seat

by | 07.25.2011 | 10:07am

Contrary to some reports, no deal has yet been reached to hold the 2012 Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park but every indication suggests the Arcadia, Calif., track is in the driver's seat to hold the championship racing event for the sixth time next year.

In June, representatives of three tracks – Churchill Downs (site for the 2010 and '11 two-day championships and eight times overall), Belmont Park (a four-time host, most recently in 2005), and Santa Anita Park (the site for successful back-to-back championships in 2008-09 in conjunction with the Oak Tree Racing Association) – made presentations to the Breeders' Cup Host Site Committee.

According to sources, Santa Anita's was the only presentation that came with a substantial guaranteed revenue stream for the Breeders' Cup from the host racing association, but the committee is said to have concerns over the safety of the main dirt track, which was newly installed for the 2010-11 Santa Anita winter meet and resulted in a disproportionate number of injuries. The 2008-09 championships were held on a synthetic surface and yielded no significant injuries. The track was recently closed to training and a new mixture of sand and clay installed.

To appease those concerns, officials with Santa Anita and representatives of owner Frank Stronach have worked with the Host Site Committee for an “out” clause in the event upcoming meetings on the new track in the fall and winter do not produce safer results for the horses. A late change of locations – in the spring of 2012, for example – could result in loss of sponsorship revenue and block room deposits in Los Angeles area hotels, and Breeders' Cup officials may want financial compensation. One option believed to be on the table is the possible use of Hollywood Park as an alternative site. That raises questions about racing dates, which are granted by the California Horse Racing Board, but the CHRB is a proponent for holding the event in California and it is unlikely that would be an obstacle.

Belmont Park has never been the top choice of Breeders' Cup officials because of historically lukewarm on-track ticket sales, and the expansion to a Friday-Saturday format in 2007 has heightened concerns that Friday's races could be a box-office bust at Belmont. Another drawback to a New York Breeders' Cup is the absence of a legislative incentive package and the fact Belmont Park as a facility is not best-suited for a cold-weather event. That could change by 2013, if planned capital improvements are completed, using anticipated revenue from the Aqueduct casino VLTs.

Churchill Downs plays the role of “old reliable” when it comes to the Breeders' Cup, always generating large on-track crowds and big handle. It is experienced at hosting major events with multiple levels of hospitality, but the Breeders' Cup will always play second fiddle in Kentucky to the Oaks-Derby weekend, and the mid-sized Louisville media market is viewed as a negative by some corporate sponsors.

A promotional DVD prepared for the Santa Anita presentation highlighted the fact that the Breeders' Cup is the single biggest day of horse racing in the major media market of Los Angeles, something neither Louisville or New York can claim.

Assuming final details are worked out, a formal announcement could take place in early August, with the strong likelihood that Santa Anita will land the event in 2012. There is an outside chance Belmont Park will be named the 2013 host site at that time. But no names have yet been signed on the dotted lines.

  • Build a grandstand at Palm Meadows!

  • Google Act 71

    Can’t they give it to someone else like Belmont for 2012 until we know that Santa Anita has their dirt track straightened out? If the dirt track is fine, I’m all for a return to Santa Anita but I see this being a major headache for the BC if there are as many breakdowns during the Winter Meet in 2012 as there were in 2011.

  • I Davis

    Belmont Park has hosted huge Belmont Stakes days…with over 100,000 in attendance. There is no reason why it should not be held at Belmont Park next year…the BC owes it to NY to host the BC again since it hasn’t had the opportunity since 2005 and there are no safety issues w/the Belmont oval…’s a superbly maintained track and one of the best race tracks in the country. We were there in 2005, our first BC race day, and it was awesome and thrilling! The BC needs to “spread the wealth” and allow all tracks capable of handling the BC an opportunity to do so. NY is a far better venue for the BC for fans on the East coast and remember NY’s racing history is much deeper than California’s……it merits taking its turn in hosting the BC…in fact, it should be allowed to host it two consecutive years….same as Santa Anita and Churchill Downs.

  • big dog

    let’s face it, the decision has been CLEARLY made to have SA the permanant site for the BC after 2012 making it a week long event.

  • Who Wants to Be in New York in November?

    Say no more.

  • Tinky

    Well, you have to give the BC credit for being transparent about their priorities.

    They want financial guarantees, and Stronach knows how to play that game.

    Never mind that Belmont has a proven dirt surface.

    never mind that Belmont has the best facility for a huge crowd.

    Never mind that Belmont has the fairest tracks in the country.

    Never mind that Belmont hasn’t hosted for several years, while SA had it back-to-back recently.

    It’s apparently ALL about the money.

  • I Davis

    #5 – NY in November isn’t much different than being at Churchill Downs in November, yet Belmont Park is far superior to Churchill Downs any day of the week. I know as I travel to CD for the Derby and BC and I’ve attended Belmont Park on Belmont Day for the past 12 years, attended the 2005 BC at Belmont, and visit Belmont at least 2 or 3 other times each year on big race days. Belmont is as well equipped to handle a large crowd and it’s a great place to watch a race…there are no parties and seating in the infield to obstruct your view, so you can actually watch the entire race!! Isn’t that a rather novel idea these days??!!

  • RDV

    Since Stronach has KICKED OUT the Oak Tree Racing Association, WHY IN THE H*LL would the BC want to run at SA??? Someone needs to call up Hollywood Park and let them vie for a chance to hold the Breeders Cup (along with Oak Tree) racing days. They’ve got the best weather, track and facititlies in CA.

  • Nancy

    I figured the decision was over when the new BC person was from California. It should be Belmont Park in 2012. The decision makers and Frank Stronach can all go take a long walk off a short pier.

  • Jerry Jam

    COMING SOON…………………………….




    THANK YOU TOC AND CHRB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • Quite frankly:

    If I’m at BC Ltd., I would make it clear to Stronach if he wants the BC at Santa Anita, lights for night racing will have to be installed so the BC telecast can run until 11:00 PM Eastern Time (8:00 PM local time). You can’t ignore the fact that the Asia-Pacific region can be a new revenue stream for the BC in the hundreds of millions of dollars, which is why I would make that clear to Stronach.

  • Oh, and for New York to host the BC again, NYRA would need to get the laws changed to allow for night racing (at least for a limited number of special events) with lights installed at Belmont Park. There is no way the BC can be held in New York otherwise because people simply can’t take off Friday afternoon from work in November and Sunday can’t be the second day due to the NFL being the 800-pound gorilla of sports that it is.

  • Another thought:

    If the situation with Hollywood Park concerning its future can be resolved and the track stays open, what about Hollywood Park as a BC Host? While Hollywood is a synthetic surface, the Cushion Track there is considered to be the best of those surfaces, and Hollywood of course has lights for night racing already in place. That to me would make Hollywood a no-brainer for a future BC host in California if that situation can be resolved.


    Tinky, your summary is accurate. Any argument outside of money that the event should be held permanently in any location is dubious at best. Stronach is more than willing to overpay out of his own pocket to accomplish things like this, even if not financially prudent. The other organizations aren’t willing to do the same.

  • I Davis

    #12 – People can’t take off a Friday afternoon in NY?? Since when?? They take off for Yankee games, don’t they? Ever see Yankee stadium lacking in attendance?? Sorry, that’s no excuse! NY has the best purses, the best racing, the best trainers, and the best Thoroughbreds on its tracks….it’s a leader in the industry in spite of its dysfunctional politics and management. There is no reason not to hold the next BC in NY, but obviously, w/the new leadership being from the desperately bankrupt state of CA and CA racing going down the tubes rather quickly, it gets the sympathy vote I suppose….just not right or ethical…it is NY’s turn and rightfully so!!

  • bill marshall

    There’s little doubt that what started as, at least partially, a sporting event is now all business and a slave to the almighty dollar. It is really beyond belief that any consideration would be given to staging another Breeders’ Cup over a synthetic surface, even in the alternative. Anyone who believes that it hasn’t been established that the form of most horses varies widely over synthetic and dirt surfaces should review the recent results of the Blue Grass Stakes. Only Keeneland, Del Mar and Hollywood among major tracks are synthetic. There’s little doubt that Hollywood will ultimately turn into a shopping center or some such. That would leave only two, neither of which are suitable for hosting a Breeders’ Cup. Racing on synthetic surfaces is not “Racing as it was meant to be.” Any track with a synthetic surface is not a suitable venue for racing’s championship series. We need to continue to focus on prohibiting the racing of over-medicated horses, which is, far and away, the leading cause of breakdowns.

  • Frank

    Tinky #6 —
    Today, I have to agree wholeheartedly with your assessment. Breeders Cup, as I have said before, only worries about money FOR THEM! They DO NOT do what is best for racing as a whole.
    Since they have become so powerful they have abandoned the original platform of showcasing racing throughout the country — which meant/means at different tracks. But, with power comes corruption and self serving attitudes, disguised as what’s best for all — which seems to describe the Breeders Cup today!
    AND THIS IS THE ORGANIZATION THAT PEOPLE WANT TO LEAD IN THE RACE DAY MEDICATION DISPUTE. The Breeders Cup organization is living EXAMPLE of what is WRONG with a central ruling organization. My gosh, one cannot even trust the government, and you are STILL willing to put that kind of centralized/concentrated power in the hands of a few (Ref. Breeders Cup).

  • Frank

    Bill Marshall #16 —
    What is your definition of over medicated horses? Be specific, so ALL know exactly what YOU are talking about.

  • Robert

    Re #16 : Arlington Park and Woodbine also major tracks that are also synthetic.

  • RDV

    Walt Gekko #13—–

    You’ve got it right!! The BC SHOULD be held at Hollywood since it’s got the BEST location, weather, track surface, facilities for horses. And don’t worry about the future of the track, those developers are looking to get out, they’ve got no money and were counting on the sub-prime loans to sell the houses they planned to build. Plus, the parent company (Stockbridge) is seeking ‘rescue capital’. Sounds like they are in BIG trouble.
    Oak Tree and CA horsemen should lobby for the BC to be at Hollywood Park – “a no-brainer” is an understatement!!!

  • I Davis (#15):

    In the summer, people can and WILL take off of work, which is why you have twilight cards. Asking people to do it in the first week of November is a completely different story.

    That first Friday in November is usually when many key economic indicators for the previous month come out, and many on Wall Street have to be in their offices that Friday to deal with clients reacting to those numbers. It’s not like the summer when people can leave at noon for a day at the races. Couple that with the holidays that are a few weeks later and the demands those bring, and it’s next to impossible for people in New York to take the first Friday in November off from work for a daytime Friday BC card. The only way the BC will work in New York is if the laws are changed to permit night racing for thoroughbreds (even if it’s only for a limited number of programs like the Breeders’ Cup and Belmont Stakes Day and when television commitments demand racing be at night) since going Saturday-Sunday would be suicide for the BC due to being killed on Sunday by the NFL.


    As long as we know there will be racing at Hollywood for a few more years, there is no good reason why Hollywood should not get a chance to host another BC. As noted, their Cushion Track is as close to a dirt surface as you get with synthetics and has worked very well for them for six years now (only losing seven races of the closing day card last fall when the start of the rains that would eventually give Santa Anita all the problems they had began, the only cancellation Hollywood has had in their entire time with Cushion Track), and I think would be acceptable, especially to east coast horsemen wary of racing on the “pasteboard hard” California dirt surfaces (which is also why I’d make it clear to Stronach that if Santa Anita were to get a BC, they would have to build the main track to the same formula that the NYRA tracks use). Add the fact Hollywood already has lights for night racing, and Hollywood becomes much more logical because again, you can’t ignore the Asia-Pacific region from a handle standpoint.

  • equine paparazzi

    Hollywood will never get the BC again unless they clean up the surrounding neighborhood. The facility is fine and the track is as close to dirt as a synthetic track could be and it is pretty safe, too.
    But that drive up Century Blvd. is not conducive to tourism.
    There, i said it. Inglewood is scarey and the surrounding neighborhoods are dismal. I should know, i make the drive at least once a week when the meet is there. I love the place once i get inside.

  • Doc Love

    Typical BS by the Breeders Cup. i have been to three Breeders Cup at SA and they have been by far my least favorite. In 2003 the heat was horrible and the European horse hated it. In 2008 & 2009 there was an unbelievable bias and and the horses from the east coast hated the surface. The field sizes were down and as a better that is always an issue. Media coverage was horrible as the Cup news was buried on page 8 of the sports section with 2 pages of coverage. TV coverage by the local media was awful as well. The Super Bowl of horse racing did not even lead sports off. they would show about two minutes of coverage half way thru sports. Make this easy. Set up a one year rotation between Belmont, CD and SA and lets move on with this. But if the Breeders Cup sets up a long term relationship with SA it is really going to affect this great event.

  • race

    To Doc love–I agree. Rotate so we know what’s up year to year, and can plan accordingly. The Euro’s would know in advance as well–r

  • And speaking of the Breeders’ Cup:

    If BC Ltd. really wants the BC held in the New York area again, since the only way that can happen with the current setup is if it were at night, perhaps BC. Ltd. can talk with new Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural about leasing The Big M from him for a short T-Bred meet (perhaps nine days over three weeks) that would include the two Breeders’ Cup programs. That might be the only way in the reconstruction of The Meadowlands that will be happening in the next few years (a new, smaller grandstand is scheduled to be built behind what currently is the backstretch) where the turf course there is preserved.

  • DonW

    Equine paparazzi said it right: The neighborhood around Hollywood Park, although much better than it used to be, is still a drawback for a major event like the BC.
    It seems that BC Board and management have been angling for Santa Anita as the permanent BC site since 2009. They had a great time staying in Beverly Hills and mingling with B-list stars. Their marketing consultants have told them that making SA the permanent will let them take a few years to build up the BC to a week-long celebration, like the Super Bowl. And don’t discount the Asian influence, both for participation and betting. It is all about money, marketing and prestige.
    It’s a “done deal.”

  • Toast

    The BC was going to rent a fleet of armored personnel carriers to transport all the participants between LAX/Hollywood…..but they STILL thought it wasn’t safe enough! I thought everybody was gonna put in a synthetic track & the BC was gonna move all over the world? I guess that dog didn’t hunt!

  • Adam W. Bass

    This is disgusting. Belmont Park must be given serious consideration to host the event.
    They were successful in the past, and there is no reason to believe they won’t be this time. As the mater of fact, Belmont should host for two consecutive years like Churchill and Santa Anita for the past 4 years. This is a discrimination!

  • Adam W. Bass

    I couldn’t agree more with I Davis.

  • Who Wants to Be in New York in November?

    Until they cover Belmont Park with a dome, the Breeders Cup will never be there. Remember Monmouth? Remember the weather. It’s bad enough there is going to be a Super Bowl in the East. There shouldn’t be one at Churchill Downs either.

  • Toast

    Let’s face it……some of these tracks do very well with nothing other than what God gave them & no one can take away! THE WEATHER!

  • Like I said before, for Santa Anita to host a BC, lights would need to be installed so Santa Anita can race at night. If the BC returns to NBC in 2014, unlike when NBC last had it in 2005, with the television landscape having changed so much to where Saturday night TV ratings have completely tanked, NBC likely would want the BC occupying all of Saturday prime time (and an hour on Friday night as well). As I see it happening, if the BC returns to NBC in 2014, I see Friday being from 7:30-11:00 PM ET, split between Versus/USA Network (7:30-10:00 PM ET with all of the Juvenile events except the Juvenile itself) and NBC (10:00-11:00 PM ET with the Filly & Mare Sprint and Filly & Mare Turf), while Saturday becomes a nine-race telecast from 4:30-11:00 PM ET (with the Marathon and Ladies Classic shifted to Saturday), meaning a day-into-night BC Saturday if it were at SA with the last BC race around 7:30 PM local time/10:30 PM ET. That, coupled with increased handle from the Asia-Pacific region for a night (east coast time) BC would be why I think we will see this.

  • RDV

    Toast # 27 – You must have never been to Hollywood Park? The neighborhood around Hollywood is not that bad, and how lame are these people thinking they need an armored car ? Really? I’ve walked from LAX to Hollywood, it ain’t that big of deal. People are really stupid to think it is somehow a war zone there. It’s poor, but geez, let’s get real. And it’s only about 2 miles from LAX.,s o the location is VERY convient. And yeas they even have nice hotels in the area. The location is not the problem, the problem is Stroanch who wants it all for himself at SA. The BC SHOULD be held at HP, even if they rotate the locations every year or two.

  • Disgusted

    Why should SA get it three times in 5 years when Bel hasn’t had it since 2005? The only answer to that question is anti-NY bias and Ray’s pal Avioli now working for Stronach.

  • LetItRideMike

    Disgusted, that BC at Belmont was cold, nasty 30 mph winds, and the track is too da,n big for the casual fan to enjoy watching horses that look like mice running down the backside.

  • LetItRideMike

    Walt, just an FYI, there is zero, no, less than zer chance those old farts who run Arcadia will EVER allow lights at SA. They would rather it get plowed under.

  • bookiebuster1

    “Inglewood is scarey and the surrounding neighborhoods are dismal”

    REALLY? I suppose you have no idea cause you should have been there in the 80’s and on the bus up Century to the racetrack. Trust me its way more safe and sane then its ever been I lived across the street from the track for over a year and walked hots as all the cool kids did then…

  • Just A Player

    I am tired of the East Coast people complaining because there will be important races that occur outside the Eastern time zone. Why should the races in CA be timed just for the East Coast? How about running at Belmont or Churchill at 10:30 or 11 pm in November? Let’s see how many people show up to watch those races in the cold, windy and wet weather.

  • Terri

    As someone who has been to more Breeders’ Cups in the past decade than not, I have to say that Santa Anita is the best place for it. It’s a comfortable place to watch the races, temperature-wise, and you don’t get the Breeders’ Cup Classic at night. I’ll be rooting for Santa Anita to get it. Hollywood Park would be OK, too.

  • Larry Ensor

    Correct me if I am wrong but it is my understanding that the Breeders’ Cup basically leases the track for the event. The host track gets very little out of it. At least that was how it was explained to my family when we kept boxes at Belmont and Aqueduct and they were taken away on BC day.Maybe that has changed. Belmont has arguably the best track and the largest facility. But it is dated and in desperate need of a face lift. When we went to the last BC there in 2005 we paid something like $500 per ticket and that was supposed to be a nominators special seating and price. The seats were moderate at best, we had a bunch of drunks in wife beater shirts sitting around us who bought their tickets for 10 cents on the dollar on the street. Though they were entertaining to me but not my guests. Stood in long lines for food that sucked, watered down drinks, served by surly people. I have not nominated a foal since. The weather is always problematic in November. I have been to several at Santa Anita and always had a great time. The grand bar and area in the club house is great.

  • Mike:

    They may not want lights at SA, but I would think BC Ltd., knowing the potential for handle from the Asia-Pacific region for a nighttime (east coast) BC (where it would be the next morning in Japan, Hong Kong and Australia) would make it clear to Stronach and locals in Arcadia: Lights at Santa Anita or NO Breeders’ Cup. I believe one of the reasons Churchill installed lights aside from their Friday night programs that have been a huge success is with the BC expanding to two days, they can’t have the Friday BC card in the early afternoon when many are still at work.

    SA might get the BC in 2012 or ’13 because ESPN still has the BC through then and college football does seemingly prevent it from being full-tilt at night (but even that could be changed as early as this year, with the BC at Churchill going until around 10:30 PM ET or so), but if NBC gets the BC back in 2014, you likely are looking at a night BC with a 4:30-11:00 PM ET (1:30-8:00 PM PT) telecast on NBC on Saturday and a split telecast from 7:30-11:00 PM ET (4:30-8:00 PM PT) between Versus or USA Network from 7:30-10:00 PM ET and NBC from 10:00-11:00 PM ET on Friday.

    If Hollywood Park gets its cards in order, I can see them getting the BC over SA mainly because of Hollywood having lights.

  • Anonymous

    I would rather see the BC held at CT. The last breeders cup at SA was a fiasco. Most of the horses that will run in the breeders cup are located on the east coast. It’s not fair to the horsemen to have to ship to CA.
    Poor service at Belmont was mentioned in one post. I have been to tracks all over the US. None of them had great service or food. I try not to go to a racetrack hungry. Combine that with the fact that the staff is overwhelmed and mostly temp workers, a recipe for poor service.

  • randy

    why not hold a breeder’s cup at pimlico? they accomodate large crowds every year for the preakness just fine.

  • Don Reed

    08/02/11 MSN News: “Frustrated by motorists who [illegally] park their cars with impunity around the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, Mayor Arturas Zuokas… took an extreme approach to express his displeasure.
    “… The mayor… hopped in an armored personnel carrier & drove over a Mercedes Benz.”
    Given his affection for his adopted home town, & with his father’s Lithuanian fire handed down to the son –
    If Ray were in the driver’s seat, steering the Churchill Downs bid for hosting the Breeders’ Cup, Santa Anita & Belmont would never know what hit them!

  • Randy:

    I have myself thought Pimlico should get a shot at the BC at some point (or if they build a new track in Baltimore to replace it, that such facility). That said, Pimlico has the same problem as Santa Anita right now: No lights. I’m thinking especially by 2014 whoever gets the BC is going to be required to have lights, and that could even be sooner. While they may want the BC at SA, if Hollywood gets its cards in order, they should get a shot at the BC, especially since Hollywood already has lights.

    As for Pimlico, they definitely can handle the crowds, but I doubt local residents would put up with a nighttime BC there (which as said I think will be the case within a few years if not this year because of the potential for handle from the Asia-Pacific region).

  • Mike in SB

    You seem determined to have the Breeders Cup at 11:00 PM eastern time, if so you had better hope for a permanent site in California. Nothing will kill the Breeders Cup as a sporting event like expecting people to sit on a metal folding chair at Churchill Downs at 11:00 at night in November. I have been to every
    Breeders Cup in Kentucky and all have been COLD, and this was in broad daylight, not in the middle of the night.

  • Toast

    There may not be a BC ANYWHERE in couple of years if everything keeps going the way it’s going!

  • Mike:

    It’s not that I’m determined, it’s what the Asia-Pacific region and the potential for new handle will dictate. If anything, if Hollywood (or Santa Anita with lights) got the BC, we could see the BC telecast air from 5:30 PM-Midnight on Saturday (with an 11:35 PM ET post for the Classic) since that would make it an hour later for all of the Saturday BC races in Japan, Hong Kong and Australia, where the potential for new handle is too great to ignore. Just imagine what happens to the BC if they get $1 BILLION or more in new handle from the Asia-Pacific region and a BC Classic worth $20-25 million, other BC races for older horses in the eight figures and the Asians as a result bringing their horses over.

    I also can see the BC actually taking place in Japan down the road because the purses would be astronomical if that ever happened (a $50 million Classic for instance?).

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