Permanent host site not off the table for Breeders’ Cup

A ton of details and even more questions were tossed about  Tuesday when it was officially confirmed that Keeneland would be hosting the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the first time in its history in 2015. As such, not all the nitty gritty made it into the print article thus, here are some left over points from yesterday’s presser.

It was not  long ago when the idea of the Breeders’ Cup having a permanent host site was tossed about, a concept that at one point appeared to be edging closer to reality especially with Santa Anita Park set to host the event for a third straight year this October 31 and November 1.

Tuesday’s announcement of a three-year plan that will take the Breeders’ Cup to Keeneland next fall, Santa Anita in 2016 and Del Mar in 2017 put the two-day card back on a rotation, as it was originally designed to be. When asked if said news meant the organization has closed the door on having a permanent site, however, Breeders’ Cup chairman Bill Farish warned that was not necessarily the case.

“No, it’s not dead,” Farish said of the permanent site concept. “One of  the interesting things with this three-year experience is see how these other venues do and then really explore what is the best future. It may be a rotational model where it come back here periodically. There is a lot of demand from our breeders to return to Kentucky from time to time or to the East Coast from time to time.

“If the right things happen in New York,  that can become a viable host site again. Certainly Churchill Downs and maybe even Gulfstream. Right now the weather and facilities in California make pretty compelling issues.”

Belmont Park in New York has hosted the Breeders’ Cup four times in its history, the last being in 2005. To the dismay of many East Coast patrons, the Long Island track hasn’t made a play for the Breeders’ Cup in recent years due in part to management issues with New York Racing Association that prompted the state to seize control of that organization in 2012.

Farish again did not rule out a return to New York for Breeders’ Cup down the line but did point out it would need to see progress once NYRA returns to private ownership next year.

“I don’t think they’re looking for a Breeders’ Cup right now,” Farish said of Belmont. “When the management thing gets sorted out in 2015 maybe there will be an opportunity there.”

Farish also pointed to the major traffic and logistical issues that arose at this year’s Belmont Stakes as something Breeders’ Cup would need to see the track get a better handle on.

“If you went to the Belmont this year,  they had a fabulous crowd and incredible day. Getting out of there wasn’t so fabulous,” he said. “There are some things they will be doing and need to continue to do to improve that experience.”

Another point that arose Tuesday is whether Keeneland would restrict access to its stabling area during the Breeders’ Cup. Keeneland is one of the only tracks that has a backside that is open for the public to visit without credentials but, with a quarantine barn having to be in place for the Breeders’ Cup, enhanced security will likely be in order.

The challenge on that end is that the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale is still slated to take place that Monday after Breeders’ Cup. Thus, there is the potential issue of having the Breeders’ Cup horses in a restricted area but still having the sale horses stabled where the public/potential buyers can freely inspect them.

“Part of some of the thing people don’t think about is Rice Road,” Keeneland president Bill Thomason said, referring to the Keeneland barns situated off of Rice Road and across from the training track. “We have our training facility that is very isolated and secure. But we have not worked through all those details yet. We’re going to have conversatiosn with all our horsemen, some discussions we are going to be having with our permanent horsemen on the grounds. But we have a lot of space here, a lot of grounds. But it will be different. We have other areas that will be more secure than in the past.”