Updated on 03/28/2014 5:29PM

Keeneland will bid on Breeders' Cup


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington is reviewing site plans that would allow the iconic racetrack to accommodate the crowds that attend the two-day Breeders’ Cup event in anticipation of making a bid for the event later this year, the chief executive of Keeneland said Friday.

The potential bid, which was first reported by the Lexington Herald-Leader, could be submitted this summer with an eye on hosting the 2015 event, Keeneland president Bill Thomason said Friday. Keeneland has informed the Breeders’ Cup that it is interested in hosting the event but has not yet prepared a formal application because of an ongoing evaluation of how the grounds would be prepared to host the event’s large crowds.

“This place is special, and we want the event to be successful, so we want it to be done in a way that people expect from Keeneland,” Thomason said.

Keeneland has never hosted a Breeders’ Cup, in part because its grandstand has been considered too small to accommodate Breeders’ Cup crowds. Keeneland’s record attendance is 40,617 for Blue Grass Stakes Day in the spring of 2012, but any crowd in excess of 30,000 at the track can make for an uncomfortable day at the races, and the Saturday Breeders’ Cup card routinely attracts in excess of 50,000 spectators.

When the Breeders’ Cup is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., also in the heart of horse-racing country, attendance on Saturday is usually around 70,000.

Thomason said Keeneland would erect temporary structures to accommodate a larger number of spectators for the event, including luxury suites and villas.

The last two Breeders’ Cup events have been held at Santa Anita Park in Southern California, which is also the host for this year’s event. The Breeders’ Cup has not been held anywhere other than Santa Anita or Churchill since 2007.

Keeneland’s bid may be negatively affected by its artificial main track because many Breeders’ Cup board members prefer the event to be held at a track with a dirt surface. Thomason said Keeneland continues to be engaged in an “ongoing evaluation” of the artificial surface, but he declined to comment on whether Keeneland planned to replace the track.

“We’re very proud of our surface, but it’s an ongoing process,” he said.

The impetus to consider a bid to host the Breeders’ Cup may have come from the association’s board, which is comprised of many central Kentucky breeders. Thomason said one of the benefits of hosting the event would be to showcase the company’s November breeding stock sale, which typically starts two days after the Breeders’ Cup.

“We think it could be an incredible boost for the November sale,” he said.