The Breeders' Cup is exploring the possibility of having a permanent home for Thoroughbred racing's world championships.
Churchill Downs could be a front-runner based on its track record: Churchill has hosted the Breeders' Cup more than any other track (six times) and the cup is coming back to Louisville next year.
The Breeders' Cup board approved the action of looking into a single, permanent host site at its December meeting in Lexington as part of a quartet of strategic planning initiatives.
"This is the culmination of a yearlong strategic planning process designed to ensure the Breeders' Cup continues to thrive and grow as one of the world's premier sporting events and as the definitive international event in our sport," said Bill Farish, Breeders' Cup chairman, in a news release.
Farish said the board hopes to approve final plans in April 2010.
The four proposals the board announced were:
■ Explore the feasibility of a single permanent host site.
■ Establish a new Breeders' Cup Racing Series in partnership with North American and European racetracks to better define and market the road to the world championships.
■ Expand brand marketing and commercial development programs, with an emphasis on digital marketing and social media.
■ Take a new approach to nominations to significantly expand the number of Breeders' Cup-eligible horses.
The change in the nominating process would be designed to increase foreign participation, said Jim Gluckson, Breeders' Cup spokesman.
"We like to get the best horses in the world to participate and a number of international stallions are not nominated to the Breeders' Cup," he said.
Expanding the nominating process could help the Breeders' Cup financially; fees from foal and stallion nominations have fallen as breeding has dropped off.
And increased foreign participation could drive more international wagering, something the championships expanded this year in a deal with the wagering site Betfair.
The board earlier this year took $5 million from reserves to shore up purses in its existing stakes program and offered a discount on nominating fees to encourage more participation.