04/22/2010 12:00AM

Cup delays decision on site


The board of directors of the Breeders' Cup put off a decision to name future host sites for its two-day year-end event for 2011 and beyond at a board meeting on Thursday in Lexington, Ky., Breeders' Cup said in a release.

The delay will extend the discussions revolving around whether Breeders' Cup will name Santa Anita in Southern California the semi-permanent host site - for the next five to 10 years - or put Santa Anita in a three-track rotation that would also include Churchill Downs in Louisville and Belmont Park in New York. Discussions about the choice have generated intense arguments for either side in recent months.

A plan for the host sites "is expected to be finalized in the near future," Breeders' Cup said in the release.

Also at the meeting, Breeders' Cup officials told board members that nominations revenue fell by $5 million in 2009, from $21.5 million in 2008 to $16.1 million last year. Total assets for the organization, however, declined by only $1.1 million during the year, according to financial documents released late on Wednesday, in part because of the rebound in the stock market in the last half of 2009 that reversed an $11 million loss in 2008 to a $2.3 million gain in 2009, and in part to a $5 million decline in the organization's accounts receivables, from $8.5 million to $3.5 million.

The board also voted to apply a $100 discount to $500 foal nominations made online before Aug. 1 of this year. The discount was first implemented last year.

The board met one day after the Governmental Organization Committee of the California Assembly unanimously passed a bill that would provide at least $2 million in state marketing assistance to the Breeders' Cup. The bill is sponsored by the Assembly Speaker, John Perez, a Democrat from Los Angeles.

Kentucky's legislature has also inserted itself into the process, but by taking a far different tack than California. Earlier this year, the Kentucky legislature passed a bill that would rescind a tax break for the 2010 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5-6 if Churchill is not named a host site for the 2011 or 2012 events by Nov. 4. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Damon Thayer, a Republican who is a former marketing executive for the Breeders' Cup.

Breeders' Cup officials who support proposals to name a single host site for the next five to 10 years contend that the organization's marketing efforts would benefit significantly by being focused on a single location year after year. Support for a rotating schedule is based principally on the desire to offset racing biases at single locations, and to make it easier for racing fans in far-flung geographic locations to attend the event at least once every three years.

According to several board members, Breeders' Cup was close to naming Santa Anita the semi-permanent host site several months ago, but the board backed away from the plan after hearing criticism from other board members about the proposal. Will Farish Jr., chairman of Breeders' Cup, had said earlier this year that the board wanted to approve a long-term schedule for host sites by this April.