The official announcement that Keeneland would host its first Breeders' Cup World Championships in 2015 was widely hailed as a victory for the Bluegrass. However, Tuesday's confirmation of Breeders' Cup's three-year plan also highlighted a perceived rift between the organization and the Kentucky-based track that has produced its biggest numbers.
With the Breeders' Cup going to Keeneland in 2015, Santa Anita in 2016 and Del Mar in 2017, it will be the longest time the world championships have gone without returning to Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Churchill Downs, which has hosted the event eight times, last did so in 2011. Since it began in 1984, the Breeders' Cup has never gone longer than five years without returning to the track, which has produced the largest single-day and two-day handles, and highest attendance, in the event's history, plus some of its most iconic moments.
The supposed snubbing of Churchill Downs has been viewed by some as the result of a disagreement over finances. However, Breeders' Cup chairman Bill Farish said Tuesday there was "not a rift at all" with Churchill, and he did not rule out the event returning beneath the Twin Spires.
"This has no bearing on Churchill Downs in any way. I certainly can see going back there in the future," Farish said. "The two teams talk all the time. It's not the kind of thing where there is no communication. They have delivered some great Breeders' Cups in the past, and I'm sure they will in the future."
John Asher, vice president of communications for Churchill Downs, said Tuesday that the track's relationship with Breeders' Cup was "good" and that it welcomed news of a Kentucky-based Breeders' Cup.
"It's a good thing for the state of Kentucky and the horse industry and for Keeneland; we wish them the best of luck," Asher said. "We're hoping it will return (to Churchill) sometime down the road. We'll keep trying and we know the people in our city and region would love for it to come back to Churchill Downs."
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Blog: horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.