Updated on 06/27/2014 8:39AM

Breeders' Cup names Keeneland as 2015 host


ARCADIA, Calif. – The Breeders’ Cup championship races will be run at familiar and new venues from 2015 to 2017, the organization announced Tuesday.

For the first time, the Breeders’ Cup championship days will be run at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 30-31, 2015. For 2016 and 2017, the event will be in California – for a record ninth time at Santa Anita on Nov. 4-5, 2016, and for the first time at Del Mar, north of San Diego, on Nov. 3-4, 2017.

Breeders’ Cup officials said the decision to announce three years of locations at once was done in consultation with leading owners, trainers, breeders, and stallion farms.

“We have sought input from key constituents from around the world,” Breeders’ Cup chairman Bill Farish said in a press conference.

Keeneland is at the center of American Thoroughbred breeding and sales in the greater Lexington area and will be the most recent venue to host the event for the first time since Monmouth Park in New Jersey did so in 2007.

“We’re in the heart of Thoroughbred breeding in the country,” Keeneland president Bill Thomason said. “This community will embrace the opportunity. We’re looking forward to 2015.”

Keeneland officials said more than 7,000 seats, including new box seats and dining and hospitality areas, will be added for the Breeders’ Cup, bringing reserved seating capacity to 21,000. The Breeders’ Cup will be held at Keeneland during daytime hours, earlier than recent years in California, when the event ended in the early evening in the Eastern time zone. Keeneland does not have plans to install temporary lights, track officials said.

Keeneland officials have sought the Breeders’ Cup in recent years and are making significant changes to the venue this year. Notably, Keeneland is replacing its Polytrack synthetic surface with dirt this summer.

Del Mar, which hosts a popular summer meeting each year, plans a similar change in December following a monthlong autumn meeting in November. The new dirt track will be in place for the 2015 summer meeting, replacing the existing Polytrack surface.

Since the 2013 Del Mar summer meeting, the track has widened its turf course to accommodate more starters, which was considered vital to hosting a Breeders’ Cup. The new turf course will be used for the first time this summer.
The 2017 Breeders’ Cup will be at the start of Del Mar’s autumn meeting, dates the track acquired following the closure of Hollywood Park in 2013.

Del Mar officials have lobbied to host the Breeders’ Cup in recent years.

“This is a dream come true for us,” said Del Mar president Joe Harper. “We’ve got this opportunity, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

Santa Anita is hosting the Breeders’ Cup this year Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, marking the fifth time the event has been held at the popular track in the last seven years. Santa Anita held the Breeders’ Cup in 2008-09 and in 2012-13. Previously, the track hosted the Breeders’ Cup in 1986, 1993, and 2003. When Santa Anita hosts the event in 2016, it will surpass Churchill Downs as the most frequent host venue in the history of the event that began in 1984. Churchill Downs has hosted the event eight times, most recently in 2011.

Breeders’ Cup president Craig Fravel said Tuesday that his organization did not mandate that Del Mar and Keeneland change from synthetic surfaces to dirt to host the two days of championship races.

“The Breeders’ Cup has never taken a position either favoring or disfavoring a particular surface,” he said. “We have taken a position on safety and what will be the best product.”

Thomason said Keeneland had researched a switch to a dirt surface for more than year.

“We hoped synthetic surfaces would be the predominant surface in the country, and it didn’t,” he said. “The timing came about very well for our opportunity to host the Breeders’ Cup, but it was not because of that.”

Harper said Del Mar plans to return to a dirt surface because Hollywood Park, which had a synthetic track, has closed, and because Santa Anita has a dirt surface. The new Del Mar dirt surface will be similar to a dirt surface that Santa Anita plans to install this summer.

Harper said Del Mar plans to construct temporary seating, with luxury suites and box seats, in an area west of the main grandstand for the 2017 Breeders’ Cup.

– additional reporting by Nicole Russo