The Breeders’ Cup World Championships of Thoroughbred racing will indeed be back at Keeneland in 2020. While many details are still being planned, there are a few key pieces of information:
▪ When will it be? The Breeders’ Cup will be at Keeneland on Nov. 6-7, the weekend before the presidential election. The two-day championships were held at Keeneland for the first time in 2015 and were such a success that Breeders’ Cup president and CEO Craig Fravel said almost immediately afterward: “We’ll be back.”
On Friday, officials announced they will also return to Santa Anita on Nov. 1-2, 2019 and to Del Mar on Nov. 5-6, 2021.
▪ How many tickets will be sold? We don’t know yet. Keeneland, which has crowds of 30,000 on its biggest days, augmented seating with chalets, complete with dining rooms, along the outside of the track in 2015. Additional seating was added in tents on the outside of the paddock and along the final turn by Versailles Road. The Friday races drew a crowd of 44,947, a record for Keeneland, topped by the Saturday crowd of 50,155. But the majority of the attendees were not able to get into the track itself, which restricted the crowd to manageable levels.
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▪ When will tickets go on sale? Sign up on Breederscup.com/2020 and you’ll be notified of important dates, such as when tickets go on sale.
▪ How much will tickets will be? See above. Keeneland had a range of ticket options last time.,
▪ Will Keeneland have chalets and track-adjacent seating again? Most likely. “Building on the success of the event for the industry and the community, we anticipate an even greater spectacle in 2020 and look forward to the Breeders’ Cup returning home once again,” said Bill Thomason, Keeneland president and CEO.
▪ Will there be celebrities again? Yes. Chef and racehorse owner Bobby Flay is on the Breeders’ Cup board; celebrity ambassadors include Kate Upton, Elizabeth Banks, Joe Torre, Chris Harrison, former English footballer and racehorse owner Michael Owen, Carson Kressley, professional skateboarders and racehorse owner Rob Dyrdek, Toby Keith, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jim Rome, Bo Derek, Erik Johnson, Lexington’s own Laura Bell Bundy, former basketball coach Rick Pitino, Avery Johnson, John Ortiz and Gary Player.
▪ Will there be events at the Red Mile again? Tailgating on the hill? We don’t know yet but it seems likely.
▪ Will there be a festival downtown again? Don’t know yet. Last time, the city coordinated days of activities leading up to the races at Keeneland, including concerts on the courthouse plaza.
▪ What’s the projected economic impact? Unknown, but last time the boost was estimated at $65 million. The 2015 Breeders’ Cup championships, highlighted by a Grand Slam with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah running away with the Classic, brought thousands of racing fans to Bluegrass hotel rooms, restaurants and local events.
▪ Will it be the same day as a UK home football game again? Don’t know because the schedule isn’t set yet. But Keeneland and Breeders’ Cup officials probably wouldn’t mind, as long as it’s a night game again.
▪ What will be different this time? There will be more hotel rooms and venues. The 21c Museum Hotel hadn’t been completed last time. And the new Origin Hotel, under construction beside at The Summit at Fritz Farm, wasn’t even a thought yet. City Center, with two hotels, was still referred to as “CentrePit” by locals back then. The old Fayette County courthouse was still a relic; now it has undergone a spectacular renovation, complete with a venue under the dome, right above the new Breeders’ Cup headquarters. And the Lexington Convention Center, which just began a renovation, should be completed by fall 2020, fingers crossed.