If you are a relatively new horse racing fan, you might think that the Breeders’ Cup, which is the sport’s annual championship event, only rotates between a few tracks. And that’s mostly been true in recent years, as even though Keeneland and Del Mar Race Course both became first-time hosts since 2015, both tracks are also slated to hold the event again in 2019 and 2020, respectively. When you throw in stalwarts Churchill Downs and Santa Anita Park, that covers every Breeders’ Cup host going back to 2008.
But prior to that, the history of host sites gets pretty interesting as tracks like Monmouth Park, Arlington Park and Lone Star Park all got a shot to host the event. Those runnings were always very popular with bettors, some of whom likely used a promo from Ladbrokes to try to make even more money on the biggest day of horse wagering. And going back a bit further, Woodbine and Gulfstream Park both held the Breeders’ Cup in the 1990s.
Of course tracks like Churchill Downs, which is home to the Kentucky Derby, is used to holding major events and they are well prepared for the large crowd from all over the globe that comes in for the Breeders’ Cup. But even with some expected glitches when it comes to seating and parking, the “smaller” Breeders’ Cup venues have performed quite well and have been a hit with fans.
Moving the Breeders’ Cup around the country to different tracks gives the sport the chance to get exposure to new fans and new media markets who might not pay as much attention to horse racing when the championships are held at the same few tracks each year. It also gives horsemen and horses based in different parts of the country the chance to compete on a more level playing field without always having to ship to California or Kentucky to compete.
The Breeders’ Cup host sites are set through 2021, and after that there hasn’t really been any strong indication of where the event might go next. There are always longshots that are discussed, like Sam Houston Race Park was for a time many years ago, so it’s too early to tell what tracks might emerge as the favorites. But hopefully consideration will be made to move the Breeders’ Cup around a bit more and help give the event greater exposure to all parts of the country, or maybe even a return trip north of the border to be held again in Canada. Wherever it ends up, the Breeders’ Cup is always a world class event that you won’t want to miss.