Sanan on Breeders’ Cup vs. Churchill Downs: ‘They Don’t Like the Attitude’

by | 06.23.2013 | 9:22am
The Breeders' Cup was last held at Churchill Downs in 2011

Churchill Downs officials say they remain surprised by the decision of the Breeders' Cup to stay at Santa Anita Park for another year, particularly given the tax breaks that the institution could have enjoyed in Kentucky.

“A few months back, I would have thought we were 3-5 to get it back for next year,” John Asher, Churchill Downs vice president, told the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Although Asher said he has been assured that the Downs is still in the mix to host the event in the future, and there appears to be no public acrimony between the two entities, ex-Breeders' Cup board member Satish Sanan said his former colleagues have been made uncomfortable by Churchill management.

“They don't like the attitude,” said Sanan. “They don't like the arrogance. They don't like hardball. … If the Breeders' Cup is vitally important to Churchill as an operation, I think they're going to have to change.”

Breeders' Cup CEO Craig Fravel maintained that despite choosing the same host site for the third year in a row, the board is not interested in a permanent site but rather, hopes to “get into a situation where we know where we're going three, four, five years out.”

Read more at the Louisville Courier-Journal

  • Stanley inman

    How long must we wait before the
    Breeders cup admits it’s Business plan is
    terminally ill;

    • Stanley inman

      The two-day experiment was to cook the numbers
      All this talk about sunny California just a hope and a
      And key players tiptoe away.

  • Don Reed

    My goodness. My sympathies for once are with the BC committee.

    However, when it comes to having a choice of rooting for one of TWO notoriously arrogant organizations, count me out.

    I’m not a tournament handicapper, but even I know better than to bet against myself.

  • Concerned Observer

    “Pride goeth before a fall”…..look out CDI and BC……hope you both wakeup, before it is too late.

    Horseracing in America needs both of you to stand up and be leaders…not just arrogant
    “me first” ers. The Kentucky consessions were not for CDI or BC…they were for the industry.

  • Bman

    If CD and/or NYRA get stiffed in 2015, join forces, form partnership, both have boatloads of money, create new championships events, one year Belmont, one year CD, and crush the BC if they even think of going anywhere else but NY or KY. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can bring in all of those horses, especially from Euro and BC will sadly be a distant memory; hopefully not. They have no right becoming a monopoly even if only in their minds.

    • hadrianmarcus

      Yeah, that would benefit horse racing in general. New York and Kentucky plods along each year with an annual hosting of two of the three triple crown events. Let’s ensure that the rich get a bit richer. Spare us all the egos of Kentucky, New York and California…there are horse racing fans in Texas, Louisiana, Illinois, Florida, the Virginias, etc. If Grade One racing is the exclusive domain of just three states….I can stop giving the sport my time and money.

      • Kris

        Don’t forget that several tracks are out of the BC mix due to that fact that they have synthetic surfaces, which many horsemen seem to hate. Woodbine, Arlington, and Keeneland are out of the mix. Gulfstream will get back into the mix whenever Stronach builds a proper grandstand.

    • Don Reed

      WNH (Will Not Happen). 1) NYRA doesn’t need the money, with the casino revenues; 2) NYRA/CDI cannot work together cooperatively (ego friction) on such a scale.

    • Kris

      Are you not aware that NYRA didn’t officially bid for the BC this year? Why would NYRA want to join CDI over something they currently have not interest in? Also, with the state of politics being what it is between New York racing and Governor Cuomo, what makes you think NYRA will have tons of extra cash to throw at a CDI/NYRA version of the BC? When NYRA once again wants the BC, then they will more than likely get the BC.

    • Lost In The Fog


      NYRA did not get stiffed for the 2014 event. NYRA did not even bother to make a bid to host the 2014 event! If you’re upset that NYRA was not awarded the BC for 2014 then direct your anger at the NYRA and not the BC.

      • Bman

        Fog, Kris,
        Did not say they did get stiffed in 2014, only speculating they could in 2015, yes, if they apply. No anger here, just thinking about solutions. Read Paul Moran on ESPN why Belmont should host and even if it rains, it’s better than Gulfstream heat. Saw SA for first time 4 years ago, almost cried when I saw how beautiful it is. But it in fairness to everyone, fans, horses, owners, etc., change the venue for 2015. Don’t ever want to see that crazy NY/CD suggestion come about, but…

  • Hoops and Horses

    BC officials don’t want to admit the real problems with having the BC at Churchill or Aqueduct. The biggest is BC Ltd. is HANDCUFFED to where they are on the schedule due to the scheduling of the Arc de Triomphe and supporting events in France and Japan Cup in Japan. BC Ltd, would lose a number of horses from the Arc Festival to races in Japan as well as Hong Kong and Singapore if they moved the BC back one week. The other problems are this.

    In the case of Churchill, the City of Louisville playing host to the Future Farmers of America the weekend of the BC through 2015. BC Ltd, would have to push the BC back a week in order to have it in Louisville.

    Belmont and Monmouth have the same problems:

    First, the New York City Marathon is the same weekend as the BC. That event has seen a tremendous jump in needed hotel space just since Monmouth played host to the Breeders’ Cup in 2007 and reared its ugly head a year ago when before it was cancelled in the wake of Superstorm Sandy (due to public pressure), many people who were staying in hotels after being displaced from their hotels by Sandy were being bumped from their rooms for people who were there for the eventually-canceled Marathon.

    Second, the first day of the BC is the day following the scheduled date for Game 7 of the World Series. If it happened the Mets or Yankees had home field for the World Series and it got to Game 6 that Wednesday, it would create major headaches for BC Ltd. and NYC Marathon officials, especially if Major League Baseball had priority on hotel space (for the visiting team, media and fans) for those dates and a few days after to accommodate for the potential of multiple rainouts, which happened in 1962 with Giants-Yankees and 1975 with Reds-Red Sox that both went the distance as well as in 2008 with Rays-Phillies (where Game 5 was suspended in the 6th inning for two days before it was completed). It would have also happened last year if the Giants had not swept the Tigers as the effects of Sandy reached every state east of the Mississippi River and large parts of Canada (Game 5 would have been postponed for three days because of Sandy). That also means for the BC to be in New York or New Jersey, it has to be a week later.

    If BC Ltd. wants to come east AND stay where it is on the schedule, it’s best bet would be to encourage Frank Stronach to do work already planned for Pimlico, in this case to get it to where Pimlico can host the BC (this would mean including the installation of lights). Baltimore does not have the same issues with hotel space as New York or Louisville, and Washington of course is not too far away if it were needed for hotel space. I’m sure a lot of elected officials would love to be able to make the short trip to Pimlico to “be seen” at a BC there, and with the infield, Pimlico likely would be looking at 80-85,000 for the BC as I suspect many in Maryland and along the I-95 corridor would make a point of being a Pimlico for the BC.

    • LongTimeEconomist

      Not a bad idea, but that’s a tall order for Stronach to get Pimlico up to appropriate quality and capacity for the BC.

      • Hoops and Horses

        As I understand it, there are plans in place to do a $100 million renovation of Pimlico anyway, which is why I brought up Pimlico as a potential BC host if they installed lights. Because Laurel hosts most of the late summer and fall racing anyway, what would probably happen is for a BC, you’d likely have an eight-day, two week meeting in the fall that would have the Maryland Million the Saturday before the BC also at Pimlico, possibly as the first night program in the history of Pimlico. That would have the turf in near-pristine condition for the BC if it happened at Pimlico.

    • JustMyView

      This is possibly one of the best analyses I’ve read re Belmont.
      It is too bad, Belmont is possibly one of the few northern venues I might go for the BC.
      I’ve been to CD for the BC and for the KD. Both were horrible experiences: I thought I would freeze to death at the BC and die of heat prostration at the KD. Not to mention the small corridors which were never meant to serve the thousands at both events, the huge lines and high prices for food and drink, the terrible traffic control both for getting there and leaving, the uncomfortable seating, I could go on… I hope never to go back to CD unless I (knock wood) have a horse racing there during those events. Now it’s possible that “ordinary” days are quite fine in CD, maybe.
      Santa Anita is an altogether different proposition: beautiful weather (yes, it does rain, just not very often, it’s occasionally chilly, but never cold), large wide corridors, lots of bars and food vendors, generally smiling faces, need I go on? I live in the west, so I’ve been to SA many times including 2 BCs. Both were exciting, pleasant, relaxing events.

      Would I go elsewhere for the BC? Absolutely!
      But I would think twice before I went to a northern racetrack for it. The weather in the north part of the US in November is usually horrible. And I’ve not been to a northern racetrack that had the infrastructure to handle the bad weather. On the other hand, I would go to Gulfstream Park, been there and thought it was a beautiful, open plan, easy to walk around place. As I was there in February, I can’t comment on the humidity. In November, I would only worry about hurricanes.

      I think the real problem with moving the BC around the US is that there are very few racetracks in the US capable of handling the large crowds involved (CD included, btw).

      • Hoops and Horses

        Thanks for the views on Belmont. Yes, the weather can be bad (I was at Belmont for the ’95 BC on a day when New York got hit by a nor’easter that dumped 4+” of rain and caused many basements to be flooded), but Belmont does have a lot of seating that is protected from the elements which does help. NYRA did winterize quite a bit of Belmont for the 2001 BC, which did very well in spite of an Anthrax scare on the heels of 9/11 that scared many people from coming to New York. The big thing now is lights need to be installed at Belmont Park for the BC to return there, which very possibly is going to be the same for whatever track hosts the BC given not only what NBC is likely to want, but the potential for hundreds of millions in new handle from the Asia-Pacific region.

        • we’re watching

          Not too many people want the BC at night. I am one of them. No one watches Tv on Sat nite any more. Why have it on TV anyway, most people use their computers for betting..

          • Hoops and Horses

            If you want to make the sport credible to those under 45, you have no choice:

            That generation has had it basically DRILLED into them over the past quarter century that it’s only a championship event if its at night. The World Series has had all of ONE day game since 1984 (and that was Game 6 in 1987), while there have been NO day games in the NBA Finals or Stanley Cup Finals in over 20 years and the Super Bowl for many years has had that kick off at 6:30 PM ET. The NFL even has gone to 4:30 and 8:00 PM kickoffs on Saturday playoff games for the last decade, even when it’s in a frigid climate.

            Having championship events in the daytime is a completely foreign concept to these people, many of whom even poo-pooh the Derby, the holy grail of this sport because it is not contested after dark. To them, it’s only a big event if it’s “under the lights,” and the BC has to join the rest of the sports world in having its events at night if it wants to be credible with people under 45 (which, BTW makes up most of the key demo for ad buyers). That’s something the everyday horseplayer seems to forget, there’s a whole other world outside racing where people do think this way mainly because of it being drilled into them.

  • Francis Bush

    Churchill Downs has always shown its colors. It has never paid much attention to wishes of fans. One might have expected Breeders’ Cup members to dislike this kind of attitude. I keep hoping that Churchill might learn to follow the wonderful example of Keeneland. But Churchill will not change so the outcome will remain the same.

    • First Watcher

      So long as the CD board continues to pay Evans $5 million a year it’s not likely that arrogant attitude will soon depart.

      • Don Reed

        Oh, I think he’s worth AT LEAST $15,000,000 a year. That poor, underpaid man.

      • RedShoesGirl

        what does one have to do in order to be paid $5 million a year?

    • David

      Keeneland could properly be thought of as a sort of designer showroom; independent contractors utilize the “showroom” to in order to what makes real money – breeding horses and selling via auction sessions. CD is in the business of the 1) Kentucky Derby, 2) alternative gaming where they can do it and, 3) racing in that order. One is a private 501c; one is a publicly held business for profit. Wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for CD to become like Keeneland anytime soon.

  • Stripes

    “If the Breeders’ Cup is vitally important to Churchill as an operation, I think they’re going to have to change.”

    Satish, you have it wrong, my friend, Churchill Downs does not care about the Breeders’ Cup at all. They lose money on it, all of the money goes to the BC and they are not able to take bets on any other signals for those two days. Churchill has the Kentucky Derby, the Breeders’ Cup is not “vitally important” to their operation.

    Unfortunately Louisville loses money when the Breeders’ Cup does not come to town. Also there are very few venues that can seat as many people as Churchill Downs can. The Breeders’ Cup needs Churchill much more than they’d like to admit.

    • MA

      Yeah, I wondered exactly how a track would profit when the BC takes all the handle and admission, etc., and why anyone would want to host it. But it’s true that Churchill/CDI is arrogant, if only by their actions and pricing surrounding the Derby. One race does not a great racetrack make. Also, the way they’re set-up, they practically force people to buy seats. You can’t see a race there unless you fork over lots of money, but at Santa Anita you can get on the rail with general admission (at least until the BC takes that perk away for their increasing VIP suite crap).

      • Stripes

        Yes, CDI is arrogant, no doubt.

    • satish


      1) Please disclose your name;

      2) I speak from knowledge and personal experience and you from lack of it;

      3) Listen to what John Asher said- how much they want and enjoy having the BC; it
      was not the executive management who said that and who negotiate the deal;

      4) BC days are second most profitable days after the Derby/Oaks and financially
      most rewarding for the BC;

      5) Churchill has the best infrastructure, best and largest host-site, produces
      the most handle and profitability for the host track and BC but lacks the true
      partnership spirit- sharing risks and rewards;

      6) In addition to the objective evaluation criteria and the spirit of
      partnership, the BC event involves owners, breeders, horsemen and a lot of
      politics at the BC Board level which always plays a major role in the decision
      making process.

      7) Selection process at BC (transparency) and attitudes on both sides will have to change a great deal if BC is to come back to Churchill again.

      • Stripes

        1) Stripes is all you’re going to get.

        2) I don’t disagree that you speak from personal knowledge and experience, but how do you know I do not have personal knowledge and experience. I know, I know, I won’t give you my name, but that does not mean you can without a doubt say that I do not have knowledge and experience. I am just giving my opinion on this forum.

        3) What is John Asher supposed to say, “we don’t want the Breeders’ Cup because we don’t make enough money”? That wouldn’t go over very well.

        4) Profitable for whom?

        5) Agreed.

        6) Not disagreeing with you here.

        7) Not disagreeing with you here, but both sides are pretty stubborn so this one is going to be tough and the sport is the one who suffers.

        I didn’t mean for this to be an attack on you or the Breeders’ Cup and I am certainly not on Churchill Down’s side, just expressing my opinion.

      • Hoops and Horses

        As I wrote below:

        The real problem to me is BC Ltd. is stuck where they are date-wise due to the International Horse Racing calendar being set up as it is currently. While the BC MIGHT get horses who race on British Champions Day by going a week later, they likely would lose a LOT of horses whose connections would simply wait for the Japan Cup/Japan Cup Dirt and other races in Asia even by going one week later. That to me is at the root of ALL of these issues, all attitudes by Churchill, NYRA and others aside.

        BC Ltd. would need the JRA to push their races back for BC Ltd. to move off where they currently are, which in turn prevents the BC from being at Churchill due to Louisville hosting the Future Farmers of America the next three years at the end of October/beginning of November, with every hotel room in Louisville already booked that weekend for the next three years.

  • D C W

    On thing to say about Churchill they are arrogant to everyone.

  • The Breeders cup is in California for one reason,to try to save Cal.horseracing from dying.

    • Lost In The Fog

      No, the BC is at SA for two reasons, neither of them include the one you mention but both of them are logical.

      1. SA continues to outbid the other venues.

      2. NBC prefers SA.

      • Hoops and Horses

        Actually, it’s because BC Ltd. is HANDCUFFED by when it can be scheduled because of how the international calendar is set up as noted in my other post. NBC would have likely preferred the BC to be a week later last year and this, as the schedule for last year and this was established with the assumption ESPN would carry the BC last year and this (this was originally supposed to be the last year of ESPN’s deal for the BC). I see a completely different situation in 2014 with NBC wanting an hour on Friday from 10-11:00 PM ET (possibly with the Juvenile Fillies and Juvenile on that telecast as part of what would become “Future Friday” with the other two year old races and filly-mare sprint on NBC Sports Network from 7:30-10:00 PM ET) and all of Saturday from 4:30-11:00 PM ET (with a “Prime Time Pick Four” of the Mile, Ladies Classic, Turf and Classic from 8:00-11:00 PM ET).

      • we’re watching

        I think I remember one of the greatest Breeder’s Cup days of all time in 1988. At CD. On NBC. It’s possible to have another one again.

  • voiceofreason

    Its in California because of how exceptionally well they’re doing out there.

    • harry

      Interesting comment!!! Well BC is only hurting themselves because Santa Anita does not even come close to Churchill Downs in money handled on-track and on-track attendance for BC. Churchill Downs as far as money concerned does much much more than Santa Anita ever will. Its all politics.When BC finally leaves California Gulfstream will be next stop!!! Stronach seems to be favorite for BC executives.

  • David

    Insightful observations.
    At the core you’ve got two brands that seemingly think they’re best and (therefore) hold upper hand. Arrogance is a shared characteristic and has played a major role in the impasse. Says here that, despite its infatuation with stargazing and warm weather, BC has more exposure. Growth is slowing and the international thing is a myth. Louisville remains the market of best
    potential, both in gate and export. Lose the attitude BC and make up, you’ll lose otherwise.

    • Stanley inman

      So true
      Bc knuckleheads dream of
      tv slot led by NBC
      Who understands no one is sitting in front
      Of a tv on Saturday night.
      So funny

      • Hoops and Horses

        Sports is the ONLY thing that does well on Saturday night. Last year’s BC Classic did very well considering much of the interest of the BC was sapped from many by the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy (which is why if it had been up to me, the BC would have actually been postponed by one week as many were simply dealing with SURVIVAL at the time of the BC, especially large parts of NYC and the surrounding areas) and also aired opposite Alabama @ LSU (most watched college football game of the year) on CBS and a game on FOX that was the most watched of the season on FOX. That’s why I think we could very well see the entire Saturday BC next year on NBC on Saturday night, with an hour also airing in Friday prime time next year.

  • C Hogan

    Don I had to leave Churchill Downs today after the fourth race because I forgot my ear plugs. I had a terrible headache. The continuous loud music they play all day makes a day at the races unbearable. They have run thousands of betters off. All my friends stay home and bet their bookmakers or EXPress Bet. I totally despise Churchill Downs for what they did to horse racing. We need more Keenelands.


      SO TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Red Rider

    Its a dead heat when the BC and CD are competing for the myopic arrogance crown. Their ad agencies and their own conceit lead them to believe they have a “brand”. Ty-D-Bol has a stronger brand and offers a better product. Also smells better.

  • Mike G. Rutherford

    I love Santa Anita but the main purposes of The Breeders Cup was to have a Championship “Day” like other major sports and to have the Championship event “move” around the country, like other major sports to “Promote” horse racing in all regions of the US. The biggest day in sports is the Super Bowl and it moves around the country every year. I hope the ego’s involved, on all sides, do not ruin a great event. I have never believed weather, money, tax breaks, etc. are the main purposes of The Breeder’s Cup. Again, I love Santa Anita and also love Churchill, but the board should go back an affirm the real purposes of our cup is to “Promote Horse Racing”! The big national markets are California, New York, Chicago, Florida and Texas. It’s that simple! OK, lets get back on the Founding Father’s Purposes that begin this great event. Mike G. Rutherford , Manchester Farm

  • Hoops and Horses

    I commented on Shanklin’s article at the time it was noted both on PR and there.

    You would think for a BC at Pimlico, you would have security at the same level as it is for Preakness day (and the Black-Eyed Susan the day before) if not more, especially if Dignitaries were at Pimlico for the BC. You’d probably be looking at 60,000+ for Friday night (probably with a 5:30 PM first post and the first BC race at 7:45 PM or so) and 80,000+ for Saturday night (probably with a 3:30 PM first post and the first BC race just after 5:00 PM local time) with the BC at Pimlico.

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