08/04/2011 3:25PM

Breeders' Cup set to name 2012 site


The Breeders’ Cup will announce the host track for its 2012 event at a press conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, according to officials who have been told of the organization’s plans. Santa Anita Park is widely expected to be named as the host site, the officials said, though the plan could not be confirmed by Thursday afternoon.

Breeders’ Cup officials said this week that they would have no comment about the plans until a host site is named, and Santa Anita officials did not return phone calls. Several California officials, however, said they were told to expect invitations to a Breeders’ Cup press event next Wednesday in Los Angeles. Santa Anita Park is in Arcadia in the Los Angeles area, and the two other competing sites, Churchill Downs and Belmont Park, are in Louisville and New York, respectively.

Santa Anita Park has been the host of the Breeders’ Cup five times, including two consecutive times in 2008 to 2009. Since then, the track has replaced its synthetic main surface with a dirt course, and ownership of the facility has been transferred from a publicly traded company, MI Developments, to a private company owned by Frank Stronach, the former chairman of MI Developments. Breeders’ Cup’s former chief executive, Greg Avioli, is president of Stronach’s company.

The Breeders’ Cup’s site-selection committee heard a final round of proposals for the 2012 site in early June. According to officials, Belmont Park, Churchill, and Santa Anita all made pitches for the event. Santa Anita Park is a favored site by many of the directors on the board of the Breeders’ Cup because of its mild November weather and a perception that the track is best suited to provide hospitality packages to corporate sponsors. In 2010, the Breeders’ Cup board was considering a proposal to hold the event at the track for as many as 10 consecutive years, a plan that was scuttled because of some opposition by directors and persistent drainage problems with the track’s artificial surface.

The New York Racing Association, which operates Belmont Park, had not been notified of the Breeders’ Cup’s plans as of Wednesday, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. At the June presentations, Belmont officials were asked whether the track would be willing to host the 2013 event in lieu of the 2012 event.

Following the June presentations, Breeders’ Cup officials said that they expected to name a host site by the end of June or early July. According to officials, plans to announce the host site have been delayed by concern over ongoing complaints from horsemen about the new track surface at Santa Anita, which has led Breeders’ Cup to explore provisions in its host-site contract that would allow the organization to move the event if necessary.