12/12/2009 2:10PM

Churchill or Bust


The Breeders' Cup board announced Friday that it is "exploring the possibility of using a single host site for all future Breeders' Cup events." Now where oh where could that single site be? By process of elimination, it has to be Churchill Downs.

A permanent relocation to either California or New York would ignite a full-fledged civil war in American racing, with the scorned coast probably turning its back on the Breeders' Cup altogether. Geographically "neutral" sites such as Arlington or Woodbine don't work because they do not have dirt tracks, still the dominant and most appropriate surface on which to determine main-track American championships. So unless someone's going to build a new Breeders' Cup palace, or Hialeah is magically restored to its old glory one day, Churchill is really the only plausible and pragmatic candidate. 

That doesn't mean Churchill might not also be the best choice. Cups there have gone smoothly and the facility already successfully hosts even busier racedays than the Cup. The dirt track is fair and safe and perfectly configured for the main-track Cup events. Kentucky's a fitting home for something called a Breeders' Cup, and there's something pleasing about having the Distaff and Classic run at the same course and distance as the Oaks and Derby.

---Only five more days of Aqueduct racing in 2009, as the track goes dark for a dozen days after Sunday's card:

There's not a lot left on the graded-stakes calendar either:


Today's Queens County is the last hundred-grander in New York until the Whirlaway Feb. 6 and the last graded stakes until the G3 Toboggan March 6. Every other scheduled stakes between now and then carries a $65,000 purse.

DaTruth More than 1 year ago
Bochalls, Fair Grounds doesn't need a chute for 10 furlong dirt races because the start would be at the top of the stretch. Until 1987, the NO Hcp was run at 10 furlongs. 14 would be tight on the dirt, but it can be done on the turf with the rail all the way in. You are right that the facilities are not there to handle the crowd. But they could put up temporary bleachers to seat most, such as was done LS and AP. The FG site can handle Jazz Fest every year, so it can handle whatever crowd the BC can offer.
Robert Slifer More than 1 year ago
I really think in the next few years you may see the California tracks all go back to dirt I think the powers that be were fooled into thinking the "poly" was the way to go but clearly in California we got thousands of "lame" horse and were seeing 4 and 5 horse fields as the norm. There are a few tracks that would work for a breeders cup location and at the top of my list would be Hialeah would be top of the list Del Park if they had light would be a good pick. Also there was nothing wrong with the cup at lone star and they have lights. Also most don't know this but the fairgrounds has lights they just don't have to use them to offen. Keenland has size problems and I just don't think they want to change the place.
ponyman More than 1 year ago
Breeders Cup ======== Hialeah or Gulfstream. Stop right here.
robert ginnerty More than 1 year ago
Here are excerpts from the NY Times opinionator blog "Clueless in Costco" which you might find relevant. Sports is a grievance category all its own. If you google "East Coast Bias," up comes a long litany of stories about how the West never gets any respect from those great deciders in the East. So, naturally, Toby Gerhart of Stanford didn't receive this year's Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the nation's best college football player, despite leading elite colleges in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and points scored. Many of the voters were asleep, or Saturday night blotto, when Gerhart was dazzling the football world this fall. The voting map was a geography of bias. I hope the same doesn't happen with Horse of the Year.
kent More than 1 year ago
I attended the BC this year and heard many folks commenting how wonderful the experience was at SA, despite the controversy about track surface. Face it- if you race in the late fall the weather can be horrible back east- think of the Monmouth horror show. I was at Belmont in 2005 and nearly froze to death! If I'm paying $300 to go to the BC, I really appreciate the Southern California weather! They don't move the Rose Bowl around the country- for the same reason- the weather!!!
buckeyeracefan More than 1 year ago
The necessary changes are 1) to abolish the Friday card; and 2) to promise that the BC will never again be run over synthetics. Otherwise, there are good arguments to run it at CD, or continue rotating it. I'm sure the BC will be fine either way. The poster who said the racing season was more interesting w/o the BC was dead-on, but I enjoy the BC for what it is, and I don't think it's going away anytime soon.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Rick: If not in 2010, if NBC keeps the Derby telecast beyond next year I suspect those at NBC-Universal will demand that the Derby be in prime time so the TV rating from it would count for the "May Sweeps." Given the 10.2 rating for the 2009 Derby (highest since 1992), I still can see NBC insisting on a nighttime Derby for May 1, 2010, with the Oaks possibly also on NBC the night before (and if so, most likely as part of the April 30 Jay Leno Show, with that night's show possibly originating from Churchill as well).
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
Morton: If they are thinking about SA, it's mainly about the Euros... If they can restore Hialeah to its one-time glory AND install lights for night racing there, then I think they would be a prime candidate for a permanent BC host (lights I think will matter because of wanting to tap into the Asia-Pacific region, where a nighttime BC here works better because of the time difference). I previously mentioned Atlantic City Race Course as a track I would like to see as a permanent BC host, as with its 1 1/8 Mile main track, mile turf course and lights with weather probably a little milder than New York in early November (given the close proximity to the Jersey Shore) and plenty of hotel space, Atlantic City might be a good option as well.
grasslover More than 1 year ago
If someone calls me selfish, so be it, but here it is: I really have no opinion on a permanent site for the BC, but it's way past time something be done for AMERICAN DIRT RUNNERS! Do the Europeans have any win and you're in races over there for American horses? Do the Europeans have anything like the BC where American runners are urged to participate? If the Europeans don't like a particular track and don't send their best horses, who really cares? Missing a Euro horse or two doesn't come close to all the good horses who didn't visit SA the last two years. The people at BC are constantly wooing and kissing up to the Euros; now it's time to do the same for the USA. Rotate the BC if you must, or find one venue permanently, but no polycrap please! Two straight years of Euro pleasing, fake track running, head-scratching results should be too much for any American horse loving, dirt track running handicapper to take. And, I would bet, many over the last two years didn't bet very much, if anything on these farces.
binky mcfadden More than 1 year ago
After freezing at Belmont, and getting drenched and watching horses breakdown at Monmouth, the prospect of November night racing at a tourist destination like Louisville leaves me breathless with anticipation. The dirt and synthetic debate will continue as long as both surfaces co-exist. Anyone who has attended multiple BC events will acknowledge that SA has weather, venue, restaurants, hotels, ease of access, lack of injuries, an international field, etc. in its favor. Traditionalists,handicappers, and Jess Jackson dislike synthetic and CHANGE, yet some suggest racing in November at night in possible freezing or muddy conditions a reasonable choice? "Tradition" and resistance to change will kill what little is left of the sport!