Site to Behold - By Evan Hammonds

The second day of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park turned into an afternoon for returning winners. In a span of six Breeders’ Cup races, four previous winners—Groupie Doll, Mizdirection, Secret Circle, and Wise Dan—made well-deserved repeat trips to the winner’s enclosure and were well-received by the 58,795 on hand in Southern California and the millions watching on national television or at their off-track betting venues.

Another repeat performer was the host site itself…as it will be again next year, hosting the event for an unprecedented third consecutive time. There is no denying “The Great Race Place” is a premier place for the Breeders’ Cup, which has held seven editions of the World Championships there. Only Churchill Downs, with eight, has hosted more.

Having multiple runs on the West Coast was made more palatable a year ago when the majority of winners came from Europe, the East Coast, and Kentucky. East Coast-based horses took it on the chin in 2013 with only one winner, the 2-year-old filly Ria Antonia, having prepped on the east side of the Allegheny Mountains. Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Mucho Macho Man, an “East Coast” horse, had prepped at Santa Anita in the Sept. 28 Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I).

The European contingent, however, has figured out how to excel at Santa Anita, winning three of the five races Nov. 1 and two more Nov. 2, with Declaration of War missing the Classic by a neck.

John Gosden, a top trainer in England who trained on the Southern California circuit earlier in his career, is one of many European trainers who loves the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita. He said having the World Championships in Southern California actually helps European horsemen.

“You know what kind of horse to bring—you know what the weather will be like; you know what the track will be like,” he said. “When the Breeders’ Cup was at Monmouth, it was ruined by the rain. And you never know what you’ll get at Belmont Park.”

Trainer Aidan O’Brien had a similar sentiment.

“The track is always in super shape; you know what you are going to get,” he said. “It would be really hard to improve upon Santa Anita.”

The Breeders’ Cup board will soon be pressed with the issue of future host sites. Not so long ago there was a push for Churchill Downs to be named the permanent host of the Breeders’ Cup. Many still hold to the pipe dream of majestic Hialeah Park being refitted for the World Championships. Other than some grousing about the speed-favoring track on the Nov. 1 card, this year there seems to be a groundswell for Santa Anita to get even more play as a host site than it already has.

While breeders and horsemen in Kentucky may feel slighted, and horsemen and fans in New York wonder whether the Breeders’ Cup will ever return to Belmont Park, it all comes down to the philosophy of the board.

While the original concept of the Breeders’ Cup back in the early 1980s was to make it a movable feast, its original premise was also to promote and grow the sport. National television exposure is the best way for racing to put its best foot forward. Santa Anita offers the best backdrop of any venue in America, especially in November, when it offers a fast track and a verdant turf course that looks like paradise to the fans back East as the fall colors give way to brown and gray.

Breeders’ Cup chairman Bill Farish told The Blood-Horse’s Tom LaMarra that the board should have a more permanent policy toward host sites by the end of the year or by the first quarter of 2014.

Keeping the host site moving in some sort of rotation among Southern California, Churchill Downs, and Belmont Park is the only one that makes sense. Having a larger segment of that rotation at Santa Anita makes even more sense. It is another repeat winner we can all get behind.

7 Comments

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greengirl

Seems to me like the track had some serious issues, starting with the fact that 2 horses sustained LIFE ENDING injuries in the span of what, 3 days?  Apparently the turf course was hard as a rock too.  I'm for moving it away from Santa Anita.

05 Nov 2013 7:38 PM
Terry M.

The one thing being overlooked is the ordinary fans across North America who want to attend in person, but can't, because it is never close enough to where they live. Not everyone can afford to fly to California. I know I will never see a Breeders' Cup unless it comes to Toronto. Instead I am stuck with TSN2 skipping half of Saturday's races to show NASCAR!

05 Nov 2013 10:26 PM
CatJ

Speaking strictly as a fan, I would be in favor of keeping Santa Anita as the host site of the Breeders' Cup.  Even though I live in Wisconsin and am able to drive to Louisville, after attending the Cup in 2010 and 2011 at Churchill, the weather is definitely a factor.  It's too darn cold in November to sit outside comfortably for two days.  I went to Santa Anita for the Cup in 2008, and it was a pleasure to enjoy the two day event. Factor in that beautiful view and it doesn't get any better!  

05 Nov 2013 11:42 PM
Pedigree Ann

“You know what kind of horse to bring—you know what the weather will be like; you know what the track will be like,” he said. “When the Breeders’ Cup was at Monmouth, it was ruined by the rain. And you never know what you’ll get at Belmont Park.”

That is why we don't get to see the  CHAMPIONS from GB/Ire/FR, only second or third rankers. Only a particular type of horse is suitable for Santa Anita. Class is not important - suitability for the course is. That is an indictment of racing at Santa Anita, not praise.

06 Nov 2013 9:47 AM
PomDeTerre

Having just returned to cold upstate NY after spending last weekend on 80 degree sunshine at Santa Anita, NO I do not want to go back there again next year, and NO they did not do an excellent job, particularly Trevor Denman on Saturday.  The BC has been run too many times there in the past 8 years.  Baffert (local trainer) publically states that he is entering New Years Eve (home track) ONLY because it was the horse's "home" track (5 or 6 prior wins on downhill turf there)- and wins???  Denman NEVER even bothers to call that J.V. went down on his mount in the BC Juvie Filly???  JV's replacements (not that we spectators knew he was gone), were not announced - including Wise Dan- until before the start of each race???  Really nice twist for the people who were playing Pick 6, Pick4, Pick 3...

The BC, at its inception, was designed to be held at different tracks every year.  While it never rains in southern California, the same might apply to Gulfstream & Fairgrounds- even Lone Star.  Monmouth was not to blame for the weather. That facility is gorgeous.   Belmont, Woodbine, Arlington, Churchhill, Keeneland.... there are many other venues- as was the intent of the meet- where this race can and should be held.

Fans from all over the country should be allowed to see this meet in their own back yards. Seems to me that the laid back SoCal attitude has invaded the way these races are being scheduled.  I fully expect Denman to exclaim at the BC Classic next year "And it' (fill in the blank) by a neck. AWESOME!"

Time to move on dudes.

09 Nov 2013 8:51 PM
Fred and Joan

We feel that the original concept of the B.C. moving around is a more equitable idea for the fans and the horsemen. Rain and inclement weather is part and parcel of racing horses year round and imagine some of you racing here in the Northwest where it rains often. Some horses prefer to race with a little moisture in the air and do feel better. We feel that ALL regions of the country should benefit from the B.C. races and all fans need to have the experience of seeing horses racing against each other from  countries outside of our own.

10 Nov 2013 11:56 AM
AngelaInAbilene

The original intent was a traveling showcase of the best of the best.  While Santa Anita is a beautiful facility, it should not be a permanent home to the BC.  I want to see it at a different track, in a different state and under different weather and track conditions each and every year.  Otherwise, it's just a chaep knock-off of what it once was.

01 Dec 2013 11:42 AM

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