Santa Anita is finishing up negotiations to be the host of next year’s Breeders’ Cup. An announcement should come within the next couple of weeks that the Arcadia track will be hosting the event for a record 10th time. This year, Churchill Downs will host for the ninth time.
It also may be announced that Keeneland in Kentucky will host the 2020 race, and Del Mar gets it back for 2021.
The Breeders’ Cup, which guards this information like nuclear launch codes, had no comment. But it has been an open secret in the industry for quite some time. In fact, Joe Harper, president and CEO of Del Mar, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that his track was in “serious” negotiations for 2021. “Serious,” in this case, is a euphemism for put it on your calendar.
This is late for the Breeders’ Cup to make an announcement about the next year’s event. The snags in negotiations almost always are the same: the cut of the money. For example, Santa Anita has new premium seating in the first turn. Tim Ritvo, Stronach Group’s chief operating officer, is going to want to help pay for those seats and would seek a bigger cut of that shared revenue than perhaps the Breeders’ Cup wants to give for those two days. That may not be the hold up, but it’s illustrative of the kind of issues that delay a final contract.
No one on either side is willing to talk about details. It is clear, though, that every day that passes makes it more likely that the Breeders’ Cup will have no choice but to come to Santa Anita next year. Santa Anita and Churchill Downs are the two tracks that can pull off the race with very little lead time, and it’s at Churchill this year.
The Breeders’ Cup, having been raced at 12 tracks in 34 years, seems to have settled into a California-Kentucky rotation. The last time the event wasn’t in either of those states was 2007 at Monmouth in New Jersey. It hasn’t been in New York since it was at Belmont in 2005. Gulfstream in South Florida, which has hosted three times, took itself out of consideration when the track downsized seating and became a “racino” (racing plus casino). The weather seems to make the Northern tracks unattractive.
The Stronach Group wants the event to come to Laurel Park in Maryland, but that’s down the road. That area still has to figure out whether the Preakness Stakes will continue at aging Pimlico, which runs only two weeks a year, or move to Laurel.
Victor Espinoza out for Del Mar: Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza fractured his C-3 vertebra in a training accident Sunday. His mount, stakes winner Bobby Abu Dhabi, had what is believed to be a fatal heart attack as he was running, and when the horse collapsed, he threw Espinoza.
Espinoza complained of shoulder pain and numbness and was transported to Scripps La Jolla Hospital. According to his agent, Brian Beach, Espinoza will be in a neck brace for six weeks, but he is expected to make a full recovery. He will miss the remainder of the Del Mar meeting.
Espinoza was the jockey of American Pharoah, who won the Triple Crown in 2015.
Justify to parade at Del Mar: Newly retired Triple Crown winner Justify will be making his last appearance before a big crowd Saturday at Del Mar. He’ll go through the paddock and then onto the main track after the fourth race, about 3:45 p.m. Jockey Mike Smith will sign autographs from noon until 1 p.m. in the Plaza de Mexico, next to the fountain.
Justify’s racing career officially came to an end Wednesday when he was retired. He was never going to race as a 4-year-old and a persistent filling in his left front ankle was going to keep him off the track at least through the summer and into the fall.
He will head to WinStar Farm in Kentucky after his appearance at Del Mar.