Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Los Angeles

A Perma-Site for the Breeders’ Cup

Kentucky Derby-winning owner-breeder Bill Casner is the latest to take up the argument advocating Santa Anita as a permanent site for the Breeders’ Cup. In a column for the Blood-Horse, he hits all the major points — weather, media market access, facilities, financial advantages, the global racing calendar — and concludes pragmatically:

The time is right to make Santa Anita the permanent venue. It is the correct business decision for the Breeder’s Cup event and the future of our industry.

I’ve refrained from commenting on the BC site debate so far, since it’s not one for which I can claim — or expect much assumption of — objectivity. I’ve done some work for the Breeders’ Cup, I welcome any reason to visit Santa Anita, and it’s probably fair to say I’m pro-synthetic surface. But there’s something about the tone of Casner’s piece that signals whatever the discussion among the BC board members, of which Casner is one, about whether to select a permanent site or establish a rotating site schedule, it’s over — all that’s left is coming to an agreement with the likely permanent host site.

So, what will it mean for American racing if the Breeders’ Cup settles at Santa Anita? The game will be more international (in wagering and participants), the event will attract more media attention (as it did this year in earning Emmy and SBJ award nominations). Forget talk of a “civil war,” especially if Santa Anita remains synthetic; there’s too much money and prestige at stake for the most recalcitrant owners and trainers to hold out for long. It will be a major change, but one with real potential for growing the game.

I don’t have much strong feeling about what the BC board seems on the verge of announcing, except on the matter of which track — and in that, they’ve made the right call, if Santa Anita is indeed their plan. There are many arguments for choosing Churchill, arguments not to be dismissed lightly. But, if Churchill Downs were to be named the permanent site, I’m certain that years from now we would look back in regret, pinpointing the decision as the moment the game became irrevocably marginalized, not only internationally, but within the US. Move the Breeders’ Cup to Louisville, and Churchill would become synecdoche for the two biggest events on the calendar, transforming racing from a national sport (niche as it may be) to a regional spectacle. No thanks, to that future. I’d rather see the Breeders’ Cup take a shot at global relevance and a mass audience in the glorious California sunshine.

This Is Her Town

Look up, Angelenos:

Zenyatta billboard

It’s official: Zenyatta is a crossover sports star.”

She really has ascended to another level, hasn’t she? It’s kind of fun. There’s a bit of an old time feel about Zenyatta’s super stardom, as well as trainer John Shirreffs’ reason for keeping the mare in California:

“We have to ship across the Rockies. It’s so much different out here than going up and down the East Coast.”

Well, maybe Zenyatta doesn’t like turbulence.

Instead of shipping east, she’ll go for a third consecutive win in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park next month. “Are they kidding?” Not at all. She’s a hometown girl; if you’re in the neighborhood, celebrate with a bobblehead.