Santa Anita to host the 40th Breeders’ Cup next year

The Breeders’ Cup, horse racing’s greatest event, has chosen Santa Anita to host its 40th Anniversary event on November 3-4, 2023. It will be the 11th time the track has hosted Arcadia.

Thursday’s announcement was not unexpected given that the event has alternated between California and Kentucky in recent years. Del Mar last hosted in 2021, with Santa Anita serving as host in 2019. This year’s Breeders’ Cup will be held at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky.

The two days of racing will feature 14 races, five on Friday and nine on Saturday, valued at more than $31 million. Most of the money for wallets comes from nomination fees. Generally, breeders nominate their stallions each season for about the cost of their stud fee. Then the foal that results from the breeding is nominated for $400 in his first year, which is good for the rest of his career.

Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Drew Fleming says there are currently no plans to change the races for next year.

“We’re always striving to improve,” Fleming said. “But at the moment we have no current plans to change the races.”

With the event almost 16 months away, there is still plenty of time to make adjustments.

Santa Anita fans will be disappointed to learn that the 6½-meter downhill grass course is unlikely to be used.

“Traditionally, outside of Santa Anita, turf sprints are five or five and a half stadia,” Fleming said. “But Santa Anita has a new grass slide that can run those distances. It’s still early and we’re still looking at each other.”

One problem with using the 6½ furlong course is that there isn’t much of a difference between it and turf racing at one mile (8 furlongs).

Santa Anita doesn’t plan to make many changes either.

“I don’t think there’s likely to be any major changes to the track surfaces,” said Craig Fravel, general manager of 1st Racing, formerly the Stronach Group and owner of Santa Anita. “We will reseed the turf course, which we normally do every two years. So there shouldn’t be much of a difference.”

Fravel knows about the Breeders’ Cup because he was its managing director before joining the Stronach Group. Fleming replaced him.

“If anything, I appreciate the Breeders’ Cup even more,” said Fravel. “Life is always greener elsewhere, but at the Breeders’ Cup I missed everyday racing because I’m regularly with horses. Now I’m at a circuit and I appreciate what a special event the Breeders’ Cup is and what a great job your team is doing.”

Despite the familiarity, Fravel will not overly meddle.

“I’m going to play an undersized role,” Fravel said. “I’m only important when things go bad.”

Fravel said chief operating officer Aidan Butler, general manager Nate Newby and senior vice president Amy Zimmerman “are going to run things like clockwork.”

Fleming admitted there was debate over what happened at the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup when a horse was accidentally scratched in this Friday’s Juvenile Turf race and then re-entered for purses only. It enraged Wetter because they couldn’t bet on him, and then he won the race.

Although it was human error, it left the California Horse Racing Board red-faced as it tried to explain how it happened.

“This was an unfortunate situation that affected our fans and horse players who are part of the backbone of our industry,” Fleming said. “The CHRB itself conducted an independent review. We will continue to work with the CHRB to prevent this from ever happening again. We have confidence in the CHRB and its ability to be proactive on these things.”

When the Breeders’ Cup was last held in Santa Anita in 2019, questions arose as to whether the races would go ahead after a string of fatalities at its December-June meeting. The Breeders’ Cup held a special meeting and agreed to continue the event after the track introduced many safety reforms.

All went well until the final race on the final day when Mongolian Groom collapsed on the course of the main event, the Classic, and was later euthanized. A subsequent investigation concluded that pre-race observations of the horse could have prevented the horse from running, but it did not. The track remained pristine but still scarred.

“Personally, I’m not concerned that a very unfortunate event is brought up and we can see it in the rear-view mirror,” said Fravel, who was still working at the Breeders’ Cup that day. “We now have one of the best safety records in all of racing. We have set up many processes. Our veterinary teams are busy. We do everything we can do.”

In 2019, Santa Anita had 30 race and practice deaths at its signature winter-spring meeting. This year there were eight. Santa Anita to host the 40th Breeders’ Cup next year

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