04/25/2016 10:04AM

Churchill Downs to host 2018 Breeders' Cup

Barbara D. Livingston
Churchill Downs last hosted the Breeders' Cup in 2011.

Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., has been selected to host the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, officials for both companies announced Monday, a decision that will return the two-day event to the site that has generated the Breeders’ Cup’s highest attendance and handle figures.

Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, has hosted the Breeders’ Cup eight times in the past, as many times as Santa Anita Park in Southern California. The 2018 event has been scheduled for Nov. 2-3. The last time Churchill hosted the Breeders’ Cup was in 2011, the second of back-to-back events there.

The two cards at Churchill Downs featuring the 2010 Breeders’ Cup races drew $173.9 million in bets and a total of 114,353 spectators, records for a two-day Breeders’ Cup. Record attendance of 80,452 for a one-day Breeders’ Cup was set in 1998, when the event was at Churchill, and record one-day handle for the event of $140.3 million was set in 2006 at Churchill.

Though it has been five years since Churchill hosted the event, the Breeders’ Cup was held in Kentucky last year at Keeneland in Lexington. Attendance had to be capped because of the small size of the Keeneland grandstand and strong demand for tickets, and the Breeders’ Cup spent an unprecedented amount of money on temporary seating areas, but officials for the organization viewed the event as an unqualified success.

Churchill has been able to set ontrack records for the event due to the wide range of accommodations at its Louisville property, ranging from grandstand general admission to high-end luxury suites, and due to its proximity to central Kentucky, the economic and cultural cradle of U.S. horse racing. Handle on recent Breeders’ Cup events at the track has also been aided by the addition of lights, which allows the Breeders’ Cup to start its cards at a reasonable hour for West Coast bettors and push its cards into prime time on the East Coast.

Most racing fans consider the narrow victory by Blame over the then-unbeaten Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill to be one of the most dramatic moments in Breeders’ Cup history. The race took place under the lights.  

At a press conference on Monday, Breeders’ Cup officials pointed out that Churchill Downs has spent tens of millions of dollars on its grandstand facilities in the past five years, including the completion of a luxury suite called “The Mansion” on the fifth floor of the structure.

“Churchill Downs’s ongoing, significant investment in their facility to enhance the experience for participants and fans aligns perfectly with our desire to conduct one of the best racing events in the world,” said Craig Fravel, the chief executive of the Breeders’ Cup.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup is scheduled for Santa Anita, and the 2017 event is scheduled for Del Mar outside of San Diego. It has been since 2007, when Monmouth Park in New Jersey hosted the first two-day event, since the Breeders’ Cup has been held outside of California or Kentucky.

The selection of Churchill means that New York will have to wait until at least 2019 to host the event again. The last time the Breeders’ Cup was held in New York was at Belmont Park in 2005. Since then, Breeders’ Cup officials have been wary of tabbing the track for the event because of political and financial uncertainty surrounding the track’s operator, the New York Racing Association.

MollyJulia624 More than 1 year ago
Gulfstream Park Should Be #1, But Frank Stronach Tore Down The Grandstand To Build A Mall?
Dahorsecapper More than 1 year ago
I vote for Turf Paradise in the future.

Better weather than even Arcadia during early November , resorts everywhere and plenty of room to put up grandstands etc.

Now the only part . Simms needs to invest about 300 million to remodel the dump and get real horse racing in AZ . They could over seed with winter rye and have the greenest best turf for the 1st week of November .  Weather wise there is no better place for the BC.

HAHA dreams dream dreams
Jim Pitura More than 1 year ago
Love this venue central and center for horse world
jtim11 More than 1 year ago

absolutely ridiculous to continue to disenfranchise the east coast with not having at least one breeders cup every 4 years. Is it really a surprise, when hearing year after year, the stock answer of "what's best for the fans, is what were all about", when the reality is from the narrow minded gate keepers, "we know whats best" for you and our circle.

Well enjoy losing one player after another by not keeping a national rotation, and hopefully somebody out there, before they make the sport extinct, can buy these gate keepers a book to learn about the subject of evolution, just don't ask me to read it and explain it to them as well...

Pap Gekko More than 1 year ago
Right now, the only east coast track that could host the BC is The Meadowlands because they have lights.  BC Ltd. learned their lesson last year you can never have an all-daytime BC again (handle was DOWN 2.4% in a year it should have been UP as much as 20% due to the loss of Hong Kong because of it being in the daytime, many still being AT WORK when Friday's BC races took place and Saturday's races taking place when many on the west coast (early on) were still asleep and/or when many have organized activities, errands and so forth they must do on Saturdays.  Many, particularly those under 30 only have Friday and Saturday night for leisure activities now due to work schedules and that is why unless we see tracks in the east installing lights for night racing, you won't see the BC on the east coast anytime soon. unless The Meadowlands got it.
Mike Oliveto More than 1 year ago
Justin Glagola More than 1 year ago
The Breeders Cup is getting old running at the same to tracks over and over i.e. Churchill and Sanita Anita. Let's find somewhere else to hold these races! Also for the small crowd size at Keeneland, why can't race tacks put a the crowd in the infield the way they do for the Derby and Preakness? The infield just sits there as a huge waste of momey being lost just sayin.
Pap Gekko More than 1 year ago
The problem is many tracks don't even want to consider hosting the BC because they don't make any money on it and now you have the problem of any track wanting to host the BC (starting with 2018) likely being required to have LIGHTS for night racing due to both being able to generate hundreds of millions in new handle from the Asia-Pacific region and the fact many under the age of 30 have grown up with the championship events in the "big four" pro sports being exclusively at night for 25 years (dating back to Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals).  

If the BC is going to be taken seriously with those under 30 (many of whom because of work during the week often can only take care of other stuff on Saturday, meaning they can't carve out Saturday afternoon for a big event any longer and only have Friday and Saturday night free for stuff like that), this sport is going to have to adjust and have major events at night when those under 30 are more likely to watch and attend, joining the rest of the sports world in that regard.  

This is why Churchill could host several BCs in a row unless another track capable of racing at night (i,e, Woodbine, The Meadowlands, Lone Star, Remington Park, etc.) bid to land the BC.  For Santa Anita and Del Mar to land the BC again after 2017, they are going to have to install lights so the BC can go to 11:00 PM ET or even later in my opinion (as a nighttime BC on the west coast could actually run to say 1:00 or 1:30 in the morning if handle from Japan, Hong Kong and Australia warranted that). 
Pap Gekko More than 1 year ago
In my opinion, this could potentially be the first of several Breeders' Cups in a row that is hosted by Churchill Downs for one simple reason: lights. Breeders' Cup, Ltd., in my opinion may have learned their lesson with last year's BC that while Keeneland is a great venue, the lack of lights there likely cost BC Ltd. tens of millions in handle as noted in a blog I did last November, with NBC likely wanting the BC telecast to on Saturday be 8:00-11:00 PM Eastern Time with an hour on Friday as well from 10:00-11:00 PM Eastern Time.

While on-track handle at Keeneland itself was actually up 2.5% compared to Santa Anita a year ago, overall handle was DOWN 2.4% in a year handle should have been up substantially, as much as 20% that would have returned handle on the BC to 2010 levels. While one big factor in that was the Mets being in the World Series and basically in New York making BC talk with very limited exceptions nonexistent, that could easily have been worked around by having the BC one week later from November 6-7, getting it away from the World Series (when Keeneland was awarded last year's BC, it was widely believed the entire MLB season was going to start and finish a week earlier than it did but apparently the Pope's visit at the end of last September forced MLB to move everything back one week because Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia would have been unavailable for either a rainout makeup or one-game playoff last Sept. 28). With the BC a week later and at night, handle on the 2015 BC is likely up 20% from 2014  because it's not taking place when people are still at work in the east (on Friday) or (on Saturday) when many in the west are still asleep. Add in Hong Kong and perhaps the rest of the Asia-Pacific region and handle on the BC has the potential to skyrocket by having the BC Distaff (Friday) and Classic (Saturday) going off at 10:40 PM ET (Saturday and Sunday morning in Japan and Hong Kong and Saturday and Sunday afternoon in Australia).

Then there is the matter of those under 30 in many cases being conditioned to believe championship events must be at night to matter, mainly due to the fact the "big four" pro sports have had ALL of their championship events at night for the past 25 years (if you turn 30 in 2016, you would have been no older than FIVE when Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals, the last such championship event to be in the daytime took place). If Horse Racing is to have credibility outside of the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown with this audience, the BC has to be at night with Horse Racing joining the rest of the mainstream sports world in that regard. Too many people in Horse Racing seem to be too stubborn to realize the mentality younger people have that has been ingrained in them over the last quarter-century.

While the TV rating for last year's BC Classic on NBC was up 53% over 2014, that to me is totally misleading because that entire TV rating increase as I understood it was those 50 and older who do not matter to most ad buyers. The rating for 18-49 who matter to advertisers was likely up far less than 53% if at all as what time of day an event takes place DOES MATTER to many under 30, especially those for whom Saturday is the only day then can do certain things in the daytime and don't have then for events like the Breeders' Cup. It would not surprise me if the 2016 BC Classic, even without a TC winner like last year gets a higher rating with 18-49 solely because of it airing in prime time when younger viewers can more easily watch. Had American Pharoah's BC Classic gone off at 10:40 PM ET on November 7 instead of 5:50 PM ET on October 31, the rating, especially with 18-49 would have been considerably higher if for no other reason than the fact that Donald Trump was hosting Saturday Night Live last November 7, which drew its best rating in four years and many would have tuned into NBC early for the BC Classic ahead of that.

Hopefully, BC Ltd. and the sport learned its lesson and now must make clear to traditionalists that there is no way the BC can be entirely in the daytime like it was a year ago at Keeneland ever again. Between the potential for handle from the Asia-Pacific region and the fact many under 30 only consider championship events to be those contested at night, Breeders' Cup, Ltd. needs to make it clear the old way will no longer work in the long run and you have to have events when those who are younger want them to be if you want to bring them in.  

Fact is, too many under 30 have jobs that prevent them from doing much else during the week and then have to other things like errands and the like in the daytime on Saturday that prevent them from carving time out for an event like the BC if it were in the afternoon on Saturday.  For many of them, Friday and Saturday night and MAYBE Sunday afternoon are the only times they have where they can carve time out for an event like the BC and the sport needs to adjust to that. 
Frank Henry More than 1 year ago
So Belmont goes another year without hosting a Breeders Cup because of financial uncertainty? $60,000 state bred maiden races at Aqueduct seem pretty stable. Nah, it's gotta be the 07 Breeders Cup at Monmouth that scares the voters (awful weather). That's the only logical, fair reason, they don't want another Breeders Cup to be ruined by bad weather. 
Pap Gekko More than 1 year ago
The problem is for the BC to be back in New York, the laws are going to first have to be changed to allow for nighttime thoroughbred racing in New York, something the Harness interests won't give up easily (the law that forbids nighttime TB racing I believe dates back to the opening of Parr Meadows in 1977 on top of The Meadowlands opening a year earlier when I believe harness interests were afraid Parr Meadows, which was a QH track would eventually look to have TB racing as well as back then no one could have anticipated the kind of changes in society we've had over the last 40 years). Until NYRA is able to install lights for a BC at Belmont Park that would have to likely run under the lights to at least 9:00 and more likely 11:00 PM ET, I don't see NYRA having any chance of landing it again.
Frank Henry More than 1 year ago
That makes sense. Good point. Another silly NY law
Debbie Pofelski More than 1 year ago
Well, I know where I will be in 2018.!!
Frank More than 1 year ago
Any place but SA I'm for.  

While the SA racetrack (grandstand area) is beautiful.  The race course (dirt/turf) is speed favoring and small.  The CA based horse clearly have an advantage there.

Its usually the only place CA based horses win BC races plus its also know for a CA based trainer (Mandella) winning 4 BC races in one day -- unheard of and unequaled at any other track.
Gaye Goodwin More than 1 year ago
Frank, a mile oval is a mile oval. The two tracks are the SAME SIZE.
Frank More than 1 year ago
I wasnt just referring to the mile oval -- I was referring mostly to the racing surface -- which you ignored that part.

SA is speed bias and the CA horses have a clear advantage -- Its a fact -- look at the PPs for all BC held there.
Chris More than 1 year ago
Frank you sound bitter.  So Cal has great racing, and tremendous horses have come from So Cal.  American Pharoah, Beholder, Songbird, Nyquist, California Chrome, do I need to keep going?