04/20/2009 12:00AM

2009 Breeders' Cup could move to Churchill


Breeders' Cup Ltd. has placed an April 30 deadline on resolving issues surrounding the bankruptcy of Magna Entertainment or it will move the 2009 event from Magna's Santa Anita Park on Nov. 6-7 to Churchill Downs in Louisville, officials involved in the ongoing process said Monday.

Attorneys representing the Breeders' Cup, Magna, and creditors of Magna have been working on a document for several weeks that would protect the current contract for the 2009 event regardless of any transfer or sale of Santa Anita, the officials said. The attorneys have agreed on the language of the document, the officials said, but the proposal still needs the approval of a Delaware bankruptcy court judge, who is juggling a handful of complex proposals and objections related to Magna's bankruptcy plans.

"Everyone's agreed to it, and no one's opposed to it," said Sherwood Chillingworth, the executive director of the Oak Tree Racing Association, the not-for-profit racing organization that holds the Breeders' Cup contract. "It's hard to believe that if you have every party to an issue on board with it, that it won't get done. But a bankruptcy court is a world unto itself."

Greg Avioli, the president of Breeders' Cup Ltd., said that the organization is confident the document will protect the Breeders' Cup, but he said that if the issue is not settled by the beginning of May, then the event will move to Churchill, which has been the host of six prior Breeders' Cup events and is scheduled to hold the 2010 event. A clause in the contract for the 2010 event designates Churchill as the backup site for 2009, Avioli said.

"It needs to get done in the very near future," Avioli said. "We can't get very far beyond where we are now. We have contracts, hotel rooms, travel plans, a ton of logistics that can't be done until we know for sure."

Magna Entertainment filed for bankruptcy on March 5. The company is currently seeking approval from a Delaware bankruptcy court to auction off its properties, including Santa Anita Park.

Twice in the past 10 years the Breeders' Cup has been relocated from Santa Anita Park, but in both prior cases, the event was moved well in advance of the event. In both cases, Santa Anita pulled out because of ongoing construction projects at the track initiated by Magna.

Ron Charles, the president of Santa Anita, said on Monday that he believes the matter will be resolved by the bankruptcy court on an expedited basis.

"I think we're really close, and I think everyone, including Breeders' Cup, has a comfort level with it," Charles said. "I'm hoping we can put this to bed."