It has been determined that the Breeders' Cup has three finalists for host site of the 2012 edition of the Breeders' Cup World Championships. They are Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, and Santa Anita. If those names seem familiar come Breeders' Cup time, then you are right. Churchill Downs was host last year and will host again this year. Santa Anita was the host in 2008 and 2009, while Belmont last hosted the event in 2005.
I think you can forget the days of the "sprinkling" in of other sites to host the Breeders' Cup. Arlington (2002 host) and Woodbine (1996 host) suffer the indignity of being Polytrack surfaces (an affliction that also hurts Del Mar's chances) and now that the euphoria of artificial surfaces has apparently waned, you can forget a return trip, Chicago and Toronto. It would appear that Lone Star (2004 host) and Monmouth (2007 host) were just one-time attempts to show that any track capable of hosting the Breeders' Cup will get it requisite time in the spotlight. So, tough luck, Dallas and New Jersey.
The Breeders' Cup has toyed with the idea in the recent past of having one permanent host site. While that idea is apparently off the table now, thankfully so, is this really any better? Instead of one host site, you have a small rotation of tracks that will serve as hosts in the Breeders' Cup eyes. Yes, one is in New York, one is in Los Angeles, and one is in Kentucky, so they have covered most of the major areas where media and horse racing seem to intersect, but by limiting the distribution of the Cup to these three places, you also limit the number of fans outside these areas that might get interested if they were able to attend a Breeders' Cup. Having worked in this industry for so long, many people in it feel that if you can get new people in the door at a racetrack, they will almost certainly want to come back. How many new fans will you cultivate in New York, L.A., or Louisville?
On the other side of the coin, there are some formerly reliable host sites that have taken themselves out of the running by changing the makeup of their racetracks to cater to other interests besides racing, namely Gulfstream. Also, the major benefit that Belmont, Churchill, and Santa Anita have going for them is that they are used to putting on such a big show and usually can do so without so much as a single hitch. Belmont and Churchill host Triple Crown events and Santa Anita isn't called the "Great Race Place" for nothing.
Unfortunately, I think that the Breeders' Cup finds itself in an unwinnable situation when it comes to host sites. Those tracks that can get everything done when it comes to hosting a Breeders' Cup are a very minute number. One of the goals of the Breeders' Cup is to grow the sport of Thoroughbred Racing everywhere, but it is hard to meet that goal when you aren't given the opportunity to properly spread the word in more than three places. While I would like to see more of a sample of racetracks hosting the sport's premier two days of racing, it might not really be a realistic circumstance for that to happen.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!