Churchill to host 2011 Breeders' Cup

The Breeders' Cup will announce on Friday morning that the organization's 2011 year-end event will be held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, according to an official who has knowledge of the organization's plans. Churchill is also scheduled to host the 2010 Breeders' Cup this November.

The announcement will be made during a press conference that the Breeders' Cup has scheduled for Friday morning at Churchill. In a release, the Breeders' Cup said that Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Breeders' Cup chairman William Farish, Breeders' Cup chief executive Greg Avioli, Churchill chief executive Bob Evans, and Churchill president Kevin Flanery will appear at the announcement.

According to the official, the Breeders' Cup board approved Churchill Downs as the 2011 site earlier this week because of uncertainty surrounding the future of the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita and unresolved economic and political concerns in New York, where the New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. is in bankruptcy while owing the operator of Belmont Park $17 million, an amount that is expected to balloon over the next several months.

The Breeders' Cup had been hoping to announce a long-term schedule for future Breeders' Cup host sites this year, but the developments in California and New York have scuttled those plans for the time being, the official said. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described the selection of Churchill Down in 2011 as "plan B."

Last month, the owner of Santa Anita Park, MI Developments, voided a lease with Oak Tree for a fall meet at Santa Anita. Oak Tree is expected to seek to run its nonprofit meet at Hollywood Park for 2011.

C. Steven Duncker, the chairman of Belmont's operator, the New York Racing Association, said on Thursday that the Breeders' Cup had not had any recent discussions with Belmont officials about hosting the 2011 event, though Belmont remains "very much in the running" as a host site beyond 2011.

"We continue to believe that we are a very viable option for the 2012 event," Duncker said.

Breeders' Cup officials declined on Thursday to confirm the Churchill selection, citing the press conference on Friday.

Churchill Downs has hosted the Breeders' Cup six times. The organization is scheduled to host its seventh event this year on Nov. 5-6.

This will be the second time in Breeders' Cup history that the event will be held at the same track for two years in a row. In 2008 and 2009, Santa Anita Park was the host for two consecutive years.

Earlier this year, Beshear signed legislation that would rescind tax breaks for the 2010 Breeders' Cup event if the organization did not commit to holding the event at a Kentucky track in either 2011 or 2012.

Kentucky State Sen. Damon Thayer, who sponsored the legislation that provided the tax breaks and who is a former employee of the Breeders' Cup, said that he expected the tax break to be worth $1 million each time the event is held in Kentucky.

"I have not been told anything regarding the 2011 event, but I hope that's what the announcement is," Thayer said on Thursday. "In this economy, a $1 million tax increase would be significant, and knowing the Breeders' Cup financials the way I do, they could use it."