The board of directors of the Breeders’ Cup is apparently considering a policy revision that would establish a permanent site for the event. A number of people have written on this issue and voiced their views. I intentionally did not read what they had to say, as I wanted to develop my own analysis. Without being privy to the same data that the board has, it is not possible to go into detail, so the following is an overview based on available public information.

Advantages of a Permanent Site

A perennial problem with Breeders’ Cup day is that there are snafus that could be circumvented if the host track conducted the event every year and learned from its experiences and mistakes. For example, at times the host track did not allocate enough betting windows, causing long lines; at Belmont Park in 2004, some of the reserved seat numbers on the tickets did not correspond to actual seats at the racetrack.

The Breeders’ Cup has weak television ratings, for a couple of reasons. First, it is on the air far too long and, second, it goes head-to-head with the bulk of the college football games. The Breeders’ Cup telecast not only attempts to compete with college football, but does so on Saturday afternoon, which is the exact time that millions of people are at games or are watching on television. By moving the Breeders’ Cup to primetime on a Friday night and by telecasting four races at most, the television ratings would surely improve (the other races could be spread out over other tracks in the months and days leading up to the main event and this would give multiple racetracks some premier races to promote around). Moving to nighttime in late October or early November would be risky for racetracks in cold-weather locations. For this reason, it would make sense to hold the Breeders’ Cup at a permanent site where the late autumn weather is milder.

A permanent site would allow the Breeders’ Cup to negotiate a long-term financial agreement with a racetrack, rather than having to negotiate every time there is a change in venue. The Breeders’ Cup revenue stream has been damaged by the drop in stud fees and the Breeders’ Cup board needs to drive the best deal it can get with a host track.

If the permanent host track had a synthetic racing surface, this would increase the event’s attractiveness to European stables, as a synthetic surface approximates the turf racing that their horses are used to.

Advantages of Rotating Among Racetracks

By moving the Breeders’ Cup around among a number of racetracks with the physical facilities to accommodate it, racing fans in all parts of North America would occasionally have easier access to attending the live event. The magnitude of this promotional value is difficult to quantify. However, for certain, the Breeders’ Cup allows the host track to generate some excitement for existing fans and to attract newcomers to the sport.

Rotating the Breeders’ Cup from track to track would to some extent level the playing field for American and foreign horses. One year the races could be run on dirt and turf and another year they could be run on synthetic and turf. This way, neither the American horses nor the foreign horses would have an intrinsic advantage. In addition, the weather would not favor one group, since some years the Breeders’ Cup would be run in warm weather and in other years conditions would be crisp.

A final advantage of rotation is that competition among racetracks in bidding for the event is inherently good. A host racetrack cannot become complacent because the Breeders’ Cup board can decide not to return.


In my estimation, the decision between designating  a permanent site and rotating the site is not obvious. Looking at the facts as an outsider, one could make a reasonably strong case for either.

My judgment is that the Breeders’ Cup should consider moving the event to no later than mid-October to mitigate the odds of cold weather, run it on Friday night over two hours, with four races, and rotate among racetracks in order to spread the promotional value geographically. However, if the Breeders’ Cup board (unwisely, in my opinion) sticks with the current format and the late October or early November schedule, then I would lean toward continuing to rotate the event, with preference shown for warmer climate racetracks like Lone Star and Santa Anita.

Copyright © 2010 Horse Racing Business


  1. Gordon Richards says

    A permanent site to the Breeders Cup is a sound idea. This would eliminate more negative issues than positive. Coming up with the ideal location is the major task however. Cuurently no such location exists in the US. It would have to be built.

    I propose a BC super track which consists of a turf, synthetic and dirt course. The BC could run on Friday and Saturday nights consecutively with a mix of sprints and distance races on all 3 surfaces. Divisions of championship races depending on sex would be eliminated. As in Europe and Dubai the horses would compete in all events regardless of sex. A juvenile division could still exist (or not) with the only other age category being 3&up (or 2&up).

    Each distance category would run on each surface bringing a total of 3 races per distance. The distances would be: 6fur: sprint; 1 mile: milers; 1 1/4m: classic; and either 1 1/2m or 1 3/4m; long distance. Six races would run Friday night and six on Saturday night totaling 12 championship races. The races could be interchanged between both night cards.

    Obviously money is of a huge concern but if the Arabs can build their dream track in Meydan, they just might be interested in assisting in the construction of a US based championship track. The Arabs involvement is imperative to such a task. Their commitment to thoroughbred horse racing is unsurpassed and could generate a tremendous interest to BC day in America.

    A global dual championship in horse racing. Meydan in March. BC in October/November. You partcipate in both events with winning results also would include bonuses. Championship racing begins in Dubai and ends in the BC.

    Either Dallas, New York or Los Angeles are the more attractive areas for the BC super track. The synthetic surface should be Tapeta as it apears to be the most favorable at this point.

    The races need to be run more closely together on each race card night. 3 races an hour in 2 to 2 1/2 hours air time on TV. Horse racing is about wagering and the excitement of winning a bet or purse money for those involved. In other words fast paced action in 120 minutes or so is the key for viewer and gambler participation.

    Maybe one day horse racing and TV will get it right. “let it ride!”

  2. Michael Tighe says

    Is this the Gordon Richards formerly with the Jockey Club in the early ’80’s and then Chicago/ Monmouth Park and Philadelphia Park?

  3. Michael Tighe says

    Is this the Gordon Richards formerly with the Jockey Club in the early ’80’s, then Chicago, Monmouth Park and Philadelphia Park?
    Like your idea. Gives it more of a true national/international flavor and setting. A project of this size would get lots of attention from outside the sport.

  4. Frank Hart says

    Is this the Michael Tighe formerly with The Jockey Club, asking about Gordon Richards formally of The Jockey Club?