Breeders' Cup to return for another run at Churchill Downs in 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The Breeders' Cup is heading back to the home of the Kentucky Derby.

Churchill Downs will host the world championships for a seventh time Nov. 5-6, 2010, the event's first trip to the track since the Cup expanded to a two-day format in 2007.

The 27th Breeders' Cup will feature 14 championship races with a projected $25.5 million in purses available.

"As the Breeders' Cup has grown over the years, there are fewer and fewer tracks that can host it," Breeders' Cup chairman William Farish said. "Certainly from a financial standpoint it makes all the sense in the world to be here."

Churchill beat out several other tracks for the right to host the Cup, though Farish did not name the other venues who submitted bids. Farish declined to comment on a claim by the New York Racing Association president Charles Hayward that it had a handshake agreement to hold the 2010 Breeders' Cup at Belmont.

"I think Charlie may have been under the gun," Farish said. "That may be his version of the story. I'd rather not comment."

Churchill last hosted the Breeders' Cup in 2006 and the track's interest in holding horse racing's biggest event seemed to cool over concerns about the revenue sharing between the track and the Breeders' Cup. The track did not bid on the 2009 Cup, which will be held at Santa Anita for a second straight year.

Churchill Downs Inc. president and CEO Robert Evans said the track began working on a new revenue agreement with the Breeders' Cup last year. Neither Evans nor Breeders' Cup Ltd. president and CEO Greg Avioli would elaborate on the arrangement, though Avioli said it was "economically viable for Churchill and economically viable for the Breeders' Cup."

"I think we both realized that it was in the best interest of Churchill and the Breeders' Cup that we try to get back to the table to see if we could work through this," Avioli said. "We came with some creative proposals and were able to work through it. I believe the framework we put in place serve us well in the coming years."

The Breeders' Cup will provide a bookend to the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games, which will be held in nearby Lexington in the fall of 2010. Some 800 human athletes and 900 horses from 60 nations are expected to attend the event,

"It was a driving force to get back here as early as 2010," Avioli said.

Though Cup officials had no plans to announce additional dates like it did when announcing Santa Anita would host the Cup in both 2008 and 2009, Avioli said he expects the Cup to make frequent trips to Churchill Downs in the future.

"My personal belief is that the Breeders' Cup sooner rather than later come up with an extended multiyear rotation for the event, as much as a decade out in advance," Avioli said. "It will give fans the opportunity to follow the event better. You look at it where it's the Olympics or the U.S. Open in golf, the more certainty you can give on where you're going to be, the easier it is for your fans to follow the sport."

Drawing fans to Churchill for the Cup hasn't been a problem. Six of the seven largest crowds in Breeders' Cup history have been at Churchill, including a record 80,452 in 1998. The 2006 Breeders' Cup set a record on-track handle of $17.2 million, a mark that was broken last year when the Cup was held over two days at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

Evans said while he's not sure there needs to be a set rotation for the Breeders' Cup, he acknowledged the event has grown so large that only a handful of venues in the country can accommodate it.

"There's only a certain number of venues that are big enough to do it," Evans said. "In the end I think you're going to get an East Coast, West Coast, Midwest kind of cycle."