04/19/2007 12:00AM

Santa Anita gets 2008 Breeders' Cup

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
The 2008 Breeders' Cup will be held at Oak Tree at Santa Anita, the first time a synthetic track will be used for racing's premier year-end event.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The 2008 Breeders' Cup event will be held at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on Oct. 24-25, Breeders' Cup officials announced on Thursday, the first time a synthetic track will be used for racing's premier year-end event.

The 2008 event will be the fourth Breeders' Cup to be hosted by Oak Tree, a not-for-profit company that runs a late-fall meet at Santa Anita. Oak Tree hosted the Breeders' Cup in 1986, 1993, and 2003.

Santa Anita, located in Arcadia, Calif., is expected to have a synthetic surface in place by the end of 2007, as mandated by the California Horse Racing Board.

Greg Avioli, Breeders' Cup's chief executive officer, said on Thursday that the Breeders' Cup board was not specifically seeking a track with an artificial surface, but that the vote to approve Santa Anita was unanimous.

"There were absolutely no concerns" about the surface, Avioli said.

Pam Blatz-Murff, Breeders' Cup's director of racing, said the synthetic surface will likely help attract European horses to the event. Synthetic surfaces have been used for a decade in training yards in Europe, and many horsemen on both sides of the Atlantic have praised the surfaces for being safer than conventional tracks.

Santa Anita is expected to begin installation of an artificial surface this summer. Though the track's owner, Magna Entertainment, has not selected a vendor, track officials say they are considering four surfaces: Cushion Track, Polytrack, Pro-Ride, and Tapeta Footings. A decision is expected by the end of April.

Magna has already selected Tapeta Footings for Golden Gate Fields in Northern California. Tapeta, which is manufactured by a company owned by the trainer Michael Dickinson, is expected to be installed this summer.

The Breeders' Cup is expected to hold at least three championship races on Oct. 24, a Friday, with the event's eight traditional races held the next day. But Avioli said the Breeders' Cup board is expected to consider the addition of at least one more $1 million race for the 2008 event, and that race would likely be added to the Friday card. This year's event at Monmouth Park will be the first to be held over two days.

In contrast to several previous sites for the Cup, Santa Anita has never imposed restrictions on the number of tickets sold. In 2003, attendance at the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita was 51,648. In 1993, attendance was 55,130, and in 1986, attendance was 69,155.

For all three events at Santa Anita, the ontrack crowd established a Breeders' Cup wagering record. But in 2003, all-sources wagering on the eight Breeders' Cup races fell from the prior year, from $108.6 million to $107.5 million, only the second time in history that handle has dropped.

* The Breeders' Cup announced that its board approved the selection of Avioli to continue as the organization's president and chief executive officer. Avioli has been the interim president and CEO for nine months.