Breeders’ Cup Joins Horseplayers in Snubbing Churchill Downs

Connections of Mucho Macho Man celebrate after the 2013 Breeders' Cup Classic (Photo credit: Breeders' Cup Ltd.)

The Breeders’ Cup will soon announce where racing’s championship two-day event will be held through 2017, and according to Gregory Hall of the Louisville Courier-Journal, it won’t be at Churchill Downs.

According to Hall, the 2015 Breeders’ Cup will be held for the first time at Keeneland, followed by back at Santa Anita for 2016 and then at Del Mar in 2017.

Both Keeneland and Del Mar will be hosting the Breeders’ Cup for the first time. Keeneland is currently replacing its polytrack surface with conventional dirt which will be ready for the fall meeting. Del Mar will replace their polytrack surface after this summer’s meeting.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Santa Anta on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, the third consecutive year the track has hosted the event.

In response to Hall’s article, the Breeders’ Cup issued the following statement: “It is Breeders’ Cup policy not to discuss or comment on future host-site selection until an official announcement has been made. We look forward to providing news regarding future host site selection for the World Championships at that time.”

Churchill Downs last hosted the Breeders’ Cup in 2011, and has enraged horseplayers with a takeout hike that went into effect at the start of the spring meeting, and has had a variety of public relations nightmares during the spring meeting.

Churchill Downs raised takeout on win, place and show betting from 16% to 17.5% and raised take on exotics from 19% to 22%.

Horseplayers have shunned the track and handle is down at the meeting by over $43 million, a decrease of 11.23% according to statistics provided by Players Boycott through June 15.

The numbers are far worse if the Oaks and Derby Day cards are removed. For the 28 regular days of racing at the meeting handle is down $41.9 million, or 27.37%.

 

 

It has been a rough spring all around for Churchill Downs, including California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn complaining about the way the connections were treated during Derby week.

“I just want to thank the people of Maryland for all the hospitality they’ve shown us,” Coburn told NBC. “And Churchill, you need to take a lesson on this — you really, really do, because these people have been absolutely fabulous.”

On April 28, Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farms posted on their web site an article titled, “Churchill Made a Irresponsible Mistake” about the lack of tickets for owners running horses on Derby Day.

Even Triple Crown winning jockey Ron Turcotte, a member of the Hall of Fame and confined to a wheelchair was upset with Churchill Downs. The track would not supply the legend with something as simple as a parking pass.

 

More bad publicity came to the track when a five-year-old mare named Never Tell Lynda died on the track on May 22 after getting spooked by the loudspeaker on the new $12 million video board.

Trainer Kenny Worth told Jenny Rees of the Louisville Courier-Journal, “It was so loud over there Sunday that I couldn’t talk to my groom with all that crap they had,” he said by phone. “And as you’re walking back, they’ve got that commercial that comes on and they ring that damn bell like they’re breaking from the gate. She got stirred up.

“Today, we’re walking over; she was walking like a lamb. I said, ‘Boy, she’s really doing good.’ About that time, that commercial came on, the bell rung and she was up. I didn’t think she hit her head that hard, but she sort of twisted and went down. I knew she was dead. I could see it in her eyes. Blood started gushing from her nose and mouth.

“I called the stewards and said they need to do something about that. It’s got to be about the horses. It can’t be all this circus crap…. When they’re endangering the horses, they’ve got to do something.”

Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens complained about the sound system after trouble in the gate with his mount Fashion Plate in the Kentucky Oaks.

The Breeders’ Cup made an outstanding choice with Keeneland and Del Mar, and now we just have to see the Breeders’ Cup return to New York for the first time since 2005.

As for Churchill Downs, being bypassed for the Breeders’ Cup is well deserved. The track and CDI in general are a blight on the industry.

Except for the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby day cards, the racetrack is becoming more irrelevant by the day among horseplayers. There seems like there are 41 million reasons why and counting.

 

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