02/07/2008 12:00AM

Santa Anita gets Breeders' Cup for 2009


ARCADIA, Calif. – In what is both a vote of confidence that Santa Anita will solve its synthetic track issues, and an acknowledgement that its options were limited, Breeders’ Cup Ltd. on Thursday announced that the 2009 Breeders’ Cup championship races would be held at Santa Anita, which will mark the first time a track has played host to the event in consecutive years.

Santa Anita, whose fall meeting is run by the non-profit Oak Tree Racing Association, will also play host to the event this year, on Oct. 24-25. The 2009 event is scheduled for Nov. 6-7. Next year’s event will be fifth time Santa Anita has played host to the Breeders’ Cup, including three times in seven years.

Santa Anita this week is renovating its synthetic surface, which has caused problems throughout the current meeting because of improper drainage. But as far back as a month ago, when Santa Anita first had to cancel races, the Breeders’ Cup stood in Santa Anita’s corner, with Breeders’ Cup president Greg Avioli saying he was confident the issues would be resolved long before this fall’s event.

But Santa Anita also became a serious option for 2009 because the pool of possible tracks to play host to the Breeders’ Cup has narrowed.

Management at Churchill Downs, which also owns Arlington Park, believes revenue to the host track for a Breeders’ Cup is insufficient.

The New York Racing Association, which has played host to Breeders’ Cups at both Belmont Park and Aqueduct, is in the midst of negotiations to retain its franchise.

Gulfstream Park, a popular host site in previous years, is no longer a viable option now that the old facility has been replaced by a smaller one.

And Breeders’ Cup officials are reluctant to return right now to a smaller track, like Lone Star Park or Monmouth Park.

As a result, Santa Anita became the front-runner, and Oak Tree officials were only too glad to oblige.

"We are pleased that Breeders’ Cup has placed this confidence in Oak Tree and our Santa Anita management team to host the Breeders’ Cup in consecutive years," said Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president of Oak Tree.

Bill Farish, the chairman of the Breeders’ Cup, said returning to the same market in consecutive years offers additional marketing opportunities for the sport.

"Our marketing team has been looking at being in the same market two years in a row, especially in a place like Los Angeles," Farish said from Florida. "There’s a lot of different marketing ideas that can be employed over two years instead of one."

Farish acknowledged that the number of facilities able to play host to the Breeders’ Cup is limited.

"The event has grown quite a bit, which makes it much more difficult to go to a smaller track, though as we saw at Monmouth, it can be done," Farish said. "We’ve had interest from places like Sam Houston and Del Mar. Considering how much the event has grown, it’s not impossible, but it’s more problematic."

Avioli said in a statement: "We will pursue discussions for the 2010 Breeders’ Cup and years beyond with Churchill Downs, Del Mar, and the New York Racing Association, among others."