Citing a desire to return to a warm-weather site, Breeders' Cup Ltd. confirmed on Wednesday what had been rumored for weeks that Santa Anita Park would host the 2012 Breeders' Cup World Championships.
The Arcadia, Calif., track, which is owned by The Stronach Group, will be hosting the Breeders' Cup for the third time in five years and sixth time overall.
Considering that Santa Anita hosted the World Championships in 2008 and '09 and Churchill Downs is holding the event this November for a second consecutive year, many believed Belmont Park was in line to be awarded the event for 2012.
Gainesway Farm President Antony Beck, who headed the site-selection committee for the Breeders' Cup board, said the decision was due mostly to the desire to have a "warm-weather experience" after two years in Kentucky and was not a slight against Belmont or East Coast fans.
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"It's not a question of one track having an advantage over another; it was more weather-based this time around," Beck said. "That was the main factor, but that is not to say Belmont isn't in the running for 2013 as is Churchill.
"We don't want to leave any fans out or any tracks out ... but it was felt, after two cold-weather years, we wanted to go to a warm-weather location. We do plan to go to Belmont at some stage very soon."
Belmont Park has not hosted a Breeders' Cup since 2005. New York Racing Association President and CEO Charles Hayward expressed disappointment Wednesday but remained optimistic the World Championships would return to Elmont, N.Y., possibly in 2013.
Both the 2008 and 2009 Breeders' Cups at Santa Anita set records for attendance and wagering — which were since passed by the 2010 event at Churchill Downs. And the World Championships generated more than $60 million in economic impact in the Los Angeles area in both years.
"The best thing we had going for us was the tremendous success of the 2008 and 2009 Breeders' Cup," said Greg Avioli, who served as CEO of Breeders' Cup Ltd. since 2006 before joining The Stronach Group as president earlier this year. "We didn't have to try and imagine what a Breeders' Cup could be like at Santa Anita in 2012. They knew from experience what it would be like."
One of the concerns about returning to Santa Anita centered on its main racing surface. The track replaced its synthetic Pro-Ride surface with dirt in late December after encountering several drainage problems.
The new dirt track was hit with record rainfall in January that altered the composition of the surface. The track only recently reopened for training after closing for a two-week renovation.
"The officials have assured us they will get the track right and are working on it right now," Beck said.
New York-based owner Mike Repole, who campaigns reigning juvenile champion Uncle Mo, took issue with the Breeders' Cup going to the same site for three of the last five years.
"This is not New York versus California, but if the Super Bowl was held in Miami three out of five years, it just wouldn't be fair," he said. "This is not the Kentucky Derby that has to be run in Kentucky; this is the Breeders' Cup."
■ One factor that could greatly affect the 2012 Breeders' Cup is the ban on the race-day use of the anti-bleeder medication Lasix that is set to go into effect for the event's five juvenile races next year.
"There is no doubt if I had a 2-year-old next year ... where he runs the table and has been on Lasix three times in a row, there is no chance of me sending that horse out there," Repole said.