Breeders' Cup goes to Downs in 2010

LOUISVILLE — As Breeders' Cup Chairman Bill Farish stepped to the podium in the Aristides room at Churchill Downs, he looked out at the crowd and joked, "I think we all know this has been the best kept secret in racing."

And with that, months of speculation surrounding one of horse racing's premier events was finally over.

The announcement many had been expecting for weeks came to fruition Wednesday when officials with Breeders' Cup Ltd. confirmed the Breeders' Cup World Championships would be returning to Churchill Downs for a record seventh time in 2010.

Churchill Downs most recently hosted the Breeders' Cup in 2006, when it produced a record total handle of $134,357,846.

"I've lost track of what the economic estimate is, $50 or $60 million, but it's a significant amount of money, and the community supports Churchill Downs and racing year round," said Robert Evans, president of Churchill Downs Inc. "This community supports this kind of thing, and there is a reason all the record attendance and record handle gets set here."

In the aftermath of 2006, however, there was some question as to when and if horse racing's year-end championship would return to Louisville. Churchill officials were expressing a desire to get a larger cut of the Breeders' Cup revenue.

While neither side would disclose specific terms of the deal, it was deemed satisfactory by both and even left the door open for Churchill to become part of a potential Breeders' Cup rotation.

"What's changed is we were able to work though some complicated business terms," said Greg Avioli, president and CEO of Breeders' Cup. "It became much more complicated, but ... I'm very pleased to say we were able to work through them, and I think the template we've come up with will serve us well to have multiple Breeders' Cups here at the track in the future.

"We don't have any formal plan set up for the next visit, but if you look realistically at what venues are available to host a two-day Breeders' Cup, there are only a handful at most. And there is no question this particular venue is one of the best."

The 2010 Breeders' Cup will be the first Churchill has hosted under the two-day format. Breeders' Cup expanded to two days last season and has 14 races taking place over Friday and Saturday this year.

Avioli said he expects the format to remain roughly the same for 2010, but the current total purse money of $25.5 million could get a bump.

"Now we're not going to go dollar for dollar with someplace like Dubai," Avioli said. "They want to raise the World Cup to $10 million, and you're not going to see the Classic go to $10 million. But, overall with 14 races, there are races that could merit additional purse money."

Earlier this month, Daily Racing Form reported that Charles Hayward, president of the New York Racing Association, said in his post-meet press conference at Saratoga that he had been told Belmont Park would be getting the 2010 Breeders' Cup. Later, he was informed by Avioli that the event would be going to Churchill.

"We never had a deal with NYRA for 2010," Avioli said Wednesday. "We did have discussions with them about hosting the 2010 event, and we hope, sometime, we will have another Breeders' Cup in New York."

Kentucky is playing host to the World Equestrian Games in 2010, a fact Evans says could help bring additional attention to the Breeders' Cup.

"What other events could we bring to this part of the country that have this kind of global visibility?" said Evans, who also downplayed the notion of a past rift with Breeders' Cup. "If you live around here, 2010 should be a good year."

The 2008 and 2009 Breeders' Cup will be held at Santa Anita, the first track with a synthetic surface to host the event.